Corbin H. Crable
Those who walk into the Spring Hill Multi-Service Center will soon miss seeing a friendly face that has greeted them for the past several years.
The center’s director, Stevie Morris, will retire at the end of July.
Morris, whose last day as director is July 30, said her reason for retiring is simple.
“I’m retiring because I can,” she said. “I want to spend time doing things I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I want to be a master gardener, I want to play a bassoon. I know how to do – I have to learn how to be. In some ways, it’s even more challenging (than a job).”
Morris has been at the helm of the Civic Center for the past six years, offering community classes for a range of interests, organizing the community’s food pantry and developing resources for the unemployed and underemployed in the community, including support groups and networking opportunities.
Morris has a long history of helping others. She has worked full-time since 1974, much of that time as a therapist or in the mental health and clinical services field.
“I’m going to miss the people the most – both my clients and the community,” Morris said.
Morris’ supervisor, Christina Jordan, a community social services team manager based in Olathe, said Morris’ successor will have big shoes to fill, but that she’s confident the transition will go smoothly. Morris’ successor has been hired, but an official announcement has not been made. The Gardner News and Spring Hill New Era will feature a followup story on the next Multi-Service Center director sometime next week.
“Stevie is warm, sociable and fun to be around,” Jordan said. “I’ve known her professionally for 20 years. She’s very well-respected, and she’s a wonderful advocate for clients problem-solving and finding their own solutions.”
And, apparently, people remember their contact with Morris, known for always taking the time to sincerely ask her clients, “So how are you?”
A few months ago, Morris said, she and her husband were sitting in a restaurant when she was confronted by an old client.
“She said, ‘You don’t remember this, but you helped my family a year ago, and we’re doing really well. My husband is working full-time and we have a house,’” Morris recalled. “It was just a really positive outcome. I’m seeing a lot of people have a lot of growth and making better decisions for themselves.”
Morris said she’s overjoyed when she can help clients help themselves to find employment, get out of debt or improve their quality of life, but she said it’s equally difficult to remember that ultimately, everyone is responsible for whether they continue to work with the tools she has given them.
“I can think more of the positive impacts than I can of the low points,” she said. “I think the lowest points I’ve had are when people make mistakes. That’s the downside.”
Morris said she’s seen a large increase in people coming to the center since the economic recession began two years ago – and that the number continues to grow.
“There’s been a 75-percent increase in people coming in to ask for assistance,” she said. “Money is the big factor. I’ve really utilized our private funds. Over the past six months I’ve spent more than I spent all of last year.
“There’s also an increase in the need for food,” she said. “Food stamps just aren’t buying as much as they used to.”
Thankfully for those in the Spring Hill community, Morris said she will continue to stay involved – when she isn’t traveling, that is.
“I want to go to London for a wedding in December,” she said. “I’m from the East Coast, and I want to go there in October.”
But when she’s not traveling across the country or the world, Morris said she plans to stay right here in Spring Hill, keeping busy with volunteer work and going to Rotary Club meetings. After all, Morris said, she wants to continue to give back to a community that itself gives so much.
“I’ll still be a part of it,” she said. “I love this little place.”
Sending Stevie off
Spring Hill residents will have the chance to send off Civic Center Director Stevie Morris with two parties. One will take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. July 15 at the Gathering Place and will be sponsored by the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce. The other will be a breakfast from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. July 30 at the Johnson County Human Services building, 11811 S. Sunset, Suite 1300 in Olathe. More information on those events will be forthcoming.