With a long-planned branding campaign completed and the new memory-care facility fully occupied, officials at Caledonia Senior Living and Memory Care, formerly known as The Scottish Home, in North Riverside, have hired the retirement home’s first chief operating officer.
Sian Stevens, who most recently served as vice president for marketing and development at Chicago Methodist Senior Services, started in her new role on May 16.
“I’ve always worked predominantly on the marketing side, and I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be able to be at the helm of the operations and bring that marketing perspective,” said Stevens during an interview last week at The Scottish Home, one of the two facilities that comprise Caledonia Senior Living and Memory Care at 2800 Desplaines Ave.
Stevens has held leadership roles in senior care organizations for more than a decade. Gus Noble, president and CEO of the Illinois St. Andrews Society, which operates Caledonia Senior Living, first got to know Stevens in 2004, when she was director of marketing at Three Crowns Park in Evanston.
The rebranding of the Swedish Retirement Association to Three Crowns Park served as something of a model for Noble as his organization, tightly connected to its Scottish cultural roots, looked to rebrand The Scottish Home to convey its commitment to inclusivity.
While working later for Sawgrass Partners, a marketing firm focusing on senior living, Stevens helped The Scottish Home with strategic planning that led to the construction of its Caledonian House memory-care facility.
Stevens later relocated to the East Coast, where Noble believed she was still working when he bumped into her at an event at Chicago Methodist Senior Services (CMSS) in March. At the time, he knew Caledonia Senior Living was about to undergo a bit of change.
With the rebranding accomplished, Noble knew he had to pour energy into both marketing, programming and attracting more residents to the campus while also continually working to enlist the support of donors and benefactors and look toward long-range strategic planning.
In addition, Jim Boyle, who has served as The Scottish Home’s chief administrator and helped launch the Caledonian House, had announced he was retiring this summer. Initially, Noble said he thought he would simply hire a successor that would slip into Boyle’s role.
But when Stevens walked into the room at the CMSS event and Noble realized she was living back in the area, he had an epiphany.
“It occurred to me that we needed to face this new challenge with a new structure, with a new approach,” Noble said. “From the moment we met Sian, we believed she would one day be one of the leaders of this organization. And she has the experience and expertise that we needed to overcome this new challenge.”
In a matter of days, Noble had formulated a basic new structure for the organization, creating a chief operating officer position, which he offered to Stevens, who said she was a bit stunned at the suddenness of it all.
As she thought it over, though, it began to make more sense. Herself a citizen of the United Kingdom – she moved with her parents to the U.S. as a child but retains her British passport, for now – the Scottish cultural heritage of Caledonia Senior Living was appealing and similar to her experience at Three Crowns Park.
With the ability to bring her marketing focus to operations, something she said was out of the ordinary in the industry, Stevens decided to make the move.
“That was definitely appealing,” Stevens said. “Finally I could have that chance to try that out and see we could really make something unique.”
Chris Cortez, who has been the retirement community’s assistant administrator for eight years and house captain of the Caledonian House, will be promoted to the position of health services administrator in June, said Noble.
With Stevens on board, Noble said he can now focus on proactively planning for the future instead of reacting to changes as they confront them.
“Sian’s arrival and leadership allows the organization to have more focus from a staff perspective on strategic planning in the future,” Noble said. “Stewardship is a really important part of what we’re doing, too.”