Thursday, Jan. 17 2013 12:30PM
Agency helping homeless families works to raise community awareness
UMKC students help non-profit with marketing plan
By Russ Pulley
Hillcrest Transitional Housing is working to raise its profile in Lee’s Summit so it will be better able to fulfill its mission of helping homeless families in eastern Jackson County.
It’s getting help from Katrina Lapine of Lee’s Summit and other University of Missouri-Kansas City students who are implementing a 75-point marketing plan written specifically for the agency.
On Jan. 16, Lapine, a graduate of Lee’s Summit High School, and Jody Pope of Lake of the Ozarks, were video recording volunteers at the agency thrift shop and Cotton Sivils, director of Hillcrest in Eastern Jackson County.
The store, in a renovated bowling alley at 936 SE Third St, has been open since May.
They were working on an orientation video for volunteers to acquaint them with Hillcrest and store operations.
Lapine said the marketing plan was written by a masters-level business class, most of its members older students who are already marketing professionals, which spent a semester partnering with Hillcrest. The class created a multifaceted plan which could cost tens of thousands of dollars from a consulting firm, she said. Lapine said her business career included work as manger of a Lee’s Summit steakhouse, and she had decided to return to school and get a degree in entrepreneurship. She didn’t help write the plan, but she is president of UMKC’s chapter of Enactus, which is an international volunteer organization that brings together students, academic and business leaders to use entrepreneurship to help people in need.
She and Sivils are cousins, and she had become interested in the agency’s good work.
So the connection naturally led to Enactus members choosing to help implement the plan for Hillcrest.
Hillcrest frequently serves mothers with young children, not the stereotypical idea of homeless people, Sivils said.
Sivils said the agency has 25 apartments in Independence, Lee’s Summit and Sugar Creek, each sponsored by a church congregation, where a homeless family gets a free apartment and utilities for 90 days, assistance with food and intensive counseling on money management and life skills to lead to employment, cooperating with other community resources.
Families in the program work out a strict budget and finances are closely monitored by counselors as clients learn how to work a budget themselves.
Hillcrest Transition Housing in Eastern Jackson County is affiliated with other Hillcrest programs in Clay, Platte, Wyandotte and Johnson counties, sharing some expenses for payroll and bookkeeping, but is a stand alone organization. The Lee’s Summit thrift store benefits Eastern Jackson County.
According to Hillcrest, 95 percent of their graduates become self-supporting. The organization helps about 250 families a year.
One unusual aspect of the Lee’s Summit location to be featured in the video is recycling run by volunteer Wil Spreeman.
Spreeman said the thrift store wrests extra value out of donations by salvaging wire or other valuable material from electronics, old toys or appliances that aren’t salvagable.
Perhaps a donated item doesn’t work, or an outdated television is worth if disassembled than the price it would bring in the store.
He’ll pull motors from old washing machines, even a broken hanger, or used pencils, have metal pieces that can be extracted and sold to recyclers.
Spreeman has a shop at the thrift store to disassemble the items.
Spreeman said he thinks recycling the program could raise $10,000 to $15,000 for Hillcrest of Eastern Jackson County each year.
Clothing left at the thrift store that isn’t high enough quality or sale in the store is bulked in bags and sold by the pound to another organization.
But that’s a last resort.
“If it can be sold in the store, it will be sold first,” Spreeman said.
For more information go to: www.hillcresttransitionalhou-
sing.org or www.enactus.org.