After a two-year search, Silver Key Senior Services moved to its new location at 1605-1655 S. Murray Blvd. this week — into new buildings that provide clients with more space, privacy and easier access to services.
For 45 years, Silver Key has provided transportation, nutrition and case management assistance to citizens older than 60 in El Paso County, serving more than 6,000 annually.
The new building wasn’t just an upgrade — it was an absolute need for Silver Key, said Chief Development Officer Lorri Orwig.
“The layout of our old location wasn’t senior-friendly, and looking at demographers’ numbers, we are certain that we will exceed 7,000 clients in 2016,” Orwig said. “Each year we’re going to see an incremental increase in that percentage and it’s fair to say that by 2020, we could be assisting more than 10,000 in the greater Colorado Springs area.”
Combined, its two new buildings are 68,000 square feet; Silver Key will be occupying just over half of that space.
“That’s all we need for now but it allows us additional square footage for growth, as the senior population continues to grow,” Orwig said. “We have 20 to 25,000 square feet we’ve leased out to different organizations, creating a positive cash flow for Silver Key. That’s always a nice thing, when you have other ways to raise money other than just asking for donations.”
The nonprofit’s previous location at 2250 Bott Ave. is only 15 minutes away from the new campus, but was smaller and configured in a way that Silver Key couldn’t fully use, Orwig said.
“It included a lot storage places, basements, and nooks and crannies,” she said. “At the new campus, we have a dining facility, bigger kitchen and community space that configures into 38,000 square feet.”
Other perks at the new location: It’s one level and it meets regulations in the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
“It’s senior-friendly,” Orwig said. “What we pride ourselves on is allowing seniors to access our services, treating them with respect and allowing them to maintain their dignity. If you can’t easily access a restroom, it’s hard to be dignified.”
In April, Silver Key launched its first-ever capital campaign to raise $5.5 million in the next two years to purchase and build out the new site. The organization needs less than $2 million to meet its goal and won’t expand until it raises the money.
“The only thing we’re proceeding with is the build-out of our pantry,” Orwig said. “There isn’t space for the walk-in fridge, freezer and other food storage, so we’re building out for that, but haven’t raised the money for it. The quicker we complete the campaign, the sooner my team can solely focus on raising funds to provide traditional services for the seniors in our community.”
Orwig said the relocation reduces Silver Key’s transportation costs because most of its clients live in the neighborhood.
According to a 2014 study by local economist Tucker Hart Adams about senior growth in the city, the east side is where the nonprofit needed to be.
“Then when we looked at where our client trips originated, we were surprised to see how many were coming from this location,” Orwig said.
“We also know there are a lot of people in this neighborhood who haven’t used our services and can. We will probably see an uptick in the numbers just based on the fact that we’re in the neighborhood and it will be easier for them to access.”
The only requirement to be a Silver Key client is to be older than 60; the organization’s Meals on Wheels and transportation services are both fee programs.
“If the only thing keeping you from being independent and safe in your home is having Meals on Wheels delivered, we have emergency assistance funds we can use to offset the cost,” Orwig said.
On June 15, Gary Geiser, owner of King’s Chef Diner, purchased Silver Key’s old building; the nonprofit leased it to him for three months so he could expand the kitchen.
“He’s doing great things and was happy to purchase the entire complex,” Orwig said. “He is actively planning to lease out some of the office space in that area for some revenue.” Geiser could not be reached for comment.
Silver Key employs about 60 full-time staff and 650 volunteers, Orwig said, adding the organization couldn’t achieve its mission without its volunteers.
“They give their time to us, driving our vehicles and clients, delivering meals, helping with events, stocking food for our pantry programs and working at our Golden Circle nutrition sites,” she said. “They work in every aspect of the organization.”
Peggy Leidel, manager of the Meals on Wheels program and the food pantry, said the biggest misconception with Meals on Wheels is that you have to be a low-income senior to qualify.
“Seniors qualify regardless of their socioeconomic status,” she said. “The meals are hot and freshly prepared daily. We will be listening to things our clients say on the kinds of food they would like to receive, so we can change up the menu as we bring in a new chef for the program.”