Trent Hill Center: Leaving a Legacy to Remember
By: Ashley Elvington
Many of us grow up idolizing athletes and celebrities, dreaming of a life full of fame and fortune. As we grow older, however, we realize that the true inspirations in life are the people we come in contact with every day. For Scottie Hill, her inspiration is none other than her late father, Trent Hill Jr.
Trent was well known in his community, a local celebrity in his own special way, as a highly respected businessman in the financial world due to his outstanding career as Vice President of Finance and CFO of Sonoco Products Company. He was also a devoted church member and trustee who spent what free time he did have working hard in his community while raising a family. Perhaps one of the most memorable aspects of Trent’s life, however, is his love for children. According to his daughter Scottie, Trent often opened his own doors to many local children – whether their needs were financial, lack of encouragement or guidance, etc. Scottie shares, “Growing up, my parents welcomed a rather eclectic and sometime eccentric group of kids into our home over the years. Kids that were struggling with isolation, anxiety, drug use, divorce, poverty, and racism were welcome in our home. My dad was one of the most powerful execs at Sonoco, but he lived his life with humility and acceptance. He was kind, compassionate, loving, tolerant, and revered a certain respect and admiration that I rarely see in people.” Trent’s wife, Anna, adds, “Two words I often hear to describe Trent are integrity and compassion. Throughout all his life, he faced each challenge with both.” Although Trent passed away four and half years ago, his legacy continues to this day. Scottie admits, “Still, people stop me in stores, restaurants, and on the street to tell me how much they respected and admired him. His life and his values are worth remembering.”
With the lifelong dream of starting a nonprofit organization, Scottie entered the social work program at Coker College once she moved back home to Hartsville. After conducting some research, she was heartbroken to learn of the high statistics of neglected and abused children in Darlington County and the Pee Dee Region. Many children, due to a shortage of foster homes in the area, are placed as far away as Greenville, Myrtle Beach, and Sumter. “They are not only separated from their homes, but also from their schools, churches, communities, towns—any person and any place familiar to them. How can we expect any child who endures these various instances and levels of trauma and separation to excel and succeed? Our children deserve to be close to home, and they deserve to be given the resources to succeed.” With her father’s compassion flowing through her veins, Scottie decided to open a children’s home. It didn’t take long for word to spread, and she was soon contacted by House of Hope in Florence, who had recently received a house in Hartsville by William Bell’s family. This dream was meant to come true…solidified even further after the children’s home was 501(c)3 approved during its first application submission.
Once the doors of the Trent Hill Center are officially open this fall, they will provide housing to Darlington County children who have experienced abuse, neglect, or abandonment. This may call for emergency placement or temporary foster care, however, Scottie and her team are well prepared with loving hearts and open arms. The location is beautiful, as the brick ranch-style home sits upon two acres of land with an ample backyard for children – including a covered walkway and picnic area – and their families to spend time together. There is also a 2,000 square-foot building in the back for administration, counseling offices, a visitation center, and indoor play area if sufficient funds are received.
Their current mission statement reads as follows: “To provide trauma-informed care to our community’s most vulnerable children in a setting that fosters physical and emotional safety; intellectual and spiritual well-being; curiosity, creativity, and exploration. We provide services in partnership with individuals, families, and organizations within our local community.” For Scottie and her team, it is of extreme importance to keep kids local and keep siblings together. “[We want to] help families STAY families. Sometimes that might mean providing residential care for children while their families are recovering/healing/working; other times, it might mean providing preventive services to families, counseling services to families, advocacy services to families, or moving into recruiting and training foster care families.” Currently, they can house up to nine children at one time and are accepting males and females, and seeking licensure to provide care to those ages 0-21 years. Most referrals come from DSS and if enough funds are raised, they would be open to accepting private placements and housing homeless youth from other organizations in the area.
Ultimately, the Trent Hill Center for Children and Families is a celebration of Trent and the inspiration he has left on his family and community. “He enveloped my mother, siblings, and me with love—the type of love that we, as a family, cannot contain, but must share with others. I think he would be incredibly proud of the Center. He believed that every child should have equal opportunity to be loved, to thrive, and to succeed. I think he would be especially proud that we have used business savvy and sense to build an organization based on what he valued most—family.”
Speaking of family, Scottie isn’t the only member of the Hill family involved in this special project. While she is the Founder and President, there are several others who are playing a crucial role in the Center’s success: Becky (Scottie’s sister) is the Executive Director; Bo (Scottie’s brother) is a donor and takes on projects as needed; Anna (Scottie’s mother) is a major donor and helps with furniture, decorating, cleaning and sorting donations; Alex Brito (Scottie’s husband) assists Scottie and family with everything from lawn maintenance to donations and volunteers; Isaac Brito (Scottie’s stepson) who spends his visits from Miami volunteering and helping with various tasks; and last but not least, Anna Bec Hill-Brito (Scottie’s five year old daughter) and Trent Hill-Brito (Scottie’s four year old son), who donate their own toys, clothes, and books to the Center. Each member plays a special part in this family affair, all seeking inspiration from the incomparable Trent Hill. Bo shares, “Dad’s children meant so much to him, I really can’t think of a better way to carry on his legacy in our family and in this community than by providing a space like the Trent Hill Center.” Anna adds, “It is my hope that the Trent Hill Center will offer a sanctuary to children who are experiencing difficulty in their lives. The Center will offer them a place of hope, peace, and joy. I am humbled that my children have chosen to honor their father in such a meaningful way.” For Becky, it’s rather difficult choosing the words that accurately describe what the Center means to her. But it all goes back to family. “I see it as a way to give back to a community that took very good care of us while our father was sick for many years… It was a rough road. In addition, I can think of no better legacy for my precious dad. In his house, everyone was loved, cared for, and welcomed. This is the kind of space we aim to provide for these children.” Alex shares, “No child should be left behind in their time of need. Children should have a safe place where their needs can be met. I am proud of my wife and her family for providing this safe placed where children can be placed until they are reunited with family. I know Mr. Trent Hill would be proud of his daughters’ accomplishment.”
The family is forever grateful to live in such a loving, helpful community. From a successful “Music and Merriment” fundraising event in December 2016 to every newspaper story and TV coverage spot, each has helped get the word out about this wonderful organization. It didn’t take long for Scottie to receive requests about public speaking, which opened the proverbial flood gates for donation calls to come into the Center. She and Becky are still active in speaking and are grateful for every opportunity to share this passion project with their beloved community. “The response has been absolutely, positively wonderful, overwhelming, and humbling. The community has really rallied around us, and I would not have gotten as far as I have without their support.” So many have lent a helping hand to the cause, including: children in the community who collected donations rather than gifts at their birthday parties, church groups/congregations and Vacation Bible School groups, local foundations, the Hartsville Women’s League, The Mantissa, De Baz, civic groups and corporations, F3 Hartsville, Coker College students, mission camps and youth groups, locals, Lowe’s, the Hartsville Chamber of Commerce, House of Hope, and nonprofit professionals. Of course, this is just a few who have contributed since the Center’s establishment. Herb Nicholson, of F3 Hartsville, shares his reasons for helping the family, “I’ve known Scottie for 20+ years and am glad to help her. In our F3 group, part of our mission is to give back to the community. The combination of knowing Scottie and looking for an opportunity to give back made the Center a perfect project to get involved with. What she’s doing with the Center is a worthwhile cause and a real need in our community.”
The Trent Hill Center will have a Grand Opening event on August 26th with food, drinks, live music, and activities for kids and families. There will also be a tour of the Center for all to view and enjoy. In the meantime, they are graciously appreciating any and all monetary donations made to the Center. There are no worries as to achieving this goal, as has the spirit of quite the influential man as its foundation. “In our family, we know love… We know compassion. We know family and how vital it is to the well-being of each and every child. Through this organization, we can share that and try to make some small difference in the lives of local children and families.”
Their mission statement: “To provide trauma-informed care to our community’s most vulnerable children in a setting that fosters physical and emotional safety; intellectual and spiritual well-being; curiosity, creativity, and exploration. We provide services in partnership with individuals, families, and organizations within our local community.”