Patricia-EllisPat Ellis became executive director of Silver Key in 2011, after having served in leadership roles with Tessa and Cheyenne Village. She’s also worked in private business, and has owned a small business in Colorado Springs.

After leaving Tessa, she took a job managing a call center, but found it less than challenging (as anyone who has ever worked in such an environment might testify!) When the Silver Key position became available, Ellis was one of 57 candidates for the job.

And while the great recession was in full swing at the time, the number of applicants is itself an interesting commentary on both the importance of Silver Key and its prospect for future growth.
“I really believe it is the goal for the board to focus on our core components, but the other thing they’re sensitive to now is the growing senior population in El Paso County, and we really need to be developing for growth,” she said shortly after taking the job. “When you look at the demographics, there’s a huge bubble on the horizon, and I think it’s important for the community to understand that. That’s one of the things that will be my focus: preparing for growth.”

That huge bubble is, of course, the long-anticipated silver tsunami that will strike the country as Baby Boomers age. Organizations such as Silver Key will become ever more important, particularly as boomers “age in place,” suddenly isolated in suburbia, she said.

“Our Meals on Wheels program served 28,000 meals to seniors in 2011,” said Ellis. “This year we’ll serve 60,000.”
As the market for their services explodes, Silver Key has had to grow and change.

Long housed in a west side location, the organization is moving.

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[pullquote]it’s OK to make mistakes … it isn’t the end of your career[/pullquote]“We’re looking at a building in southeast Colorado Springs,” said Ellis. “That’s a part of town where there’s a very high demand for our services, and we’re also in negotiations with District 11 to buy the Bates Elementary building in Cragmor.”

And the growth won’t stop anytime soon.

“[Economist] Tucker Hart Adams estimates that the over-65 population in El Paso County will grow by 179 percent in the period between 2014 and 2040,” Ellis noted. “Twenty-five percent of the population will be in that age group.”

It’s important to deliver senior services efficiently.

“We can deliver Meals on Wheels for a year for less than the price of one night in the hospital,” she said. “Good nutrition is really important for senior health.”
The soft-spoken Ellis makes leading an organization so important to the well being of many local residents look easy. Is it?

“I try to communicate that it’s OK to make mistakes, that it isn’t the end of your career,” she said. “In a nonprofit, you have to make it safe to work outside the box.”

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