LIBERTY — Brian Williams began his role as executive director at Hillcrest Hope June 1.

The 40-year-old nonprofit provides services filling in the gap until families can stand on their own. The transitional housing program, Hope Essentials, serves around 21 families at one time and approximately 54 families are served annually between the two Clay County housing sites. Hope Opportunities, an incentive-based graduates support program, has 61 graduate families participating. The newest program, Hope Solutions, the eviction prevention program, aids in addressing the needs of families in the community before they become homeless.

During the first few months in this role, Williams has been attempting to introduce himself to the community within the group’s comfort levels.

‘I call it ‘Brian’s listening tour,’” he said. “I am trying to get to know people and their impressions of the organization. I want to hear from the community.”

Williams’ initial goal was to serve in the arts, but a chance to work with the United Way in Chicago has led him to appreciate the work done by nonprofits.

Bob Saunders, who serves on the Hillcrest board of directors, was part of the original interview team.

“I was impressed with his knowledge of Hillcrest and a respect for the organization’s longevity,” he said. “He’s personable. During one of our conversations we talked about strengths and challenges. His heart is clearly with people and he is passionate.”

Williams said now that he has begun with the nonprofit, his first steps are to observe.

“Not being from the community, I am looking at Hillcrest with a fresh set of eyes,” he explained. “One thing I want to do is to share what we do even more as well as look at ways to make an even greater impact to the families we serve. We are building relationships.”

Williams calls the new role a privilege.

“I recognize the weight and responsibility that goes with the title,” he said. “There is so much support in the community for Hillcrest Hope. I know I have to bring my whole-hearted authentic self to it all. It is especially true with those who are depending on me and the staff to be successful.”

As the first few months move on, Williams said the staff has been exceptional.

“I believe in surrounding myself with people smarter than me. I believe our egos can get in the way so it’s for the greater purpose to check my ego to help the mission and the work that Hillcrest is accomplishing,” he said. “I want to earn their trust as well as those in the community to be that collaborator. I would also like to see that collaboration grow with other nonprofits.”

During the first year, Williams said he has no set plans, but he wants to sustain the current programs.

“The eviction management program is one I would like to add funding to,” he said. “Pleasant Valley Baptist Church has joined in underwriting the program for this year, but we are seeking additional partners. Right now is tough. Unemployment income and the stimulus checks run out. People are scared.”

Williams calls philanthropy magic. He believes that there are people who want to make a lasting difference in the lives of people.

“We work to connect people and help make meaningful change, meaningful impact,” he said.

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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