New Silver Key leader seeks to restore Kraushaar legacy

       Although Mikki Kraushaar did not start Silver Key, she was with the agency from its beginning in 1971 and was widely acclaimed for a gracious, generous style that helped Silver Key Senior Services grow in numbers and stature during her years as CEO.
       Three years after stepping down, her memory remains fresh at Silver Key. So fresh that recently hired CEO Michael Decker announced in a recent interview a change in policy aimed at aligning the non-profit agency more closely with Kraushaar's philosophy.
       For example, a year or so ago, because of mounting costs, seniors getting rides through Silver Key's transportation program were asked to donate $3 instead of the previous $1. Although it was never a “mandatory charge,” some who used the program perceived it that way, Decker believes. Now, he said, “Drivers aren't even going to mention it. If people need a ride, they get a ride. If they give us a buck, that's great. It's the way Mikki used to run it, and that's the way we'll run it.”
       Located at 2250 Bott Ave., Silver Key serves about 17,000 people 60 and over in the metro Colorado Springs area.
       A similar open-handedness will apply to the agency's role of helping seniors with utility or cleaning costs, as part of a longstanding goal of helping seniors stay in their homes instead of being forced into assisted living. “People who donate say they want us to help people who are in trouble,” said Decker, who was hired in May after three years heading up the Pikes Peak Area Agency on Aging. “We're trying to fulfill the promise of Silver Key as a charity.”
       His hope is that the giving spirit will spread to the community. Silver Key relies heavily on donations, and this year will be no exception. If current trends continue, Decker predicted the agency could be “several hundred thousand” dollars in the red by December.
       Another area he would like to bolster is Silver Key's volunteer base. Those numbers have eroded to 60 people - roughly half what they were in Kraushaar's day. Such people help out with case management, driving or serving as guardians for several dozen elderly who need that sort of legal protection.
       To help in that regard, Decker said he's forming a “community involvement committee” to respond to grassroots issues. “If people are unhappy, I ask them if they want to be on the committee,” he said. “I want ideas on how to maintain the the service. We want to bring in older folks to help us with the mission and help us plan the future.”
       The group will be advisory to Silver Key's board of directors, which sets policy for the agency in conjunction with the CEO. The first meeting will be Aug. 23.
       Overall, Decker said, “What we're saying is, 'This is what we're doing and we need your help.' If people see us doing the good things Silver Key has always been known for, I have unshakeable faith that this will come through.”
       A key, functional argument for Silver Key is that keeping more seniors in their homes saves taxpayer dollars. “It would be almost impossible to quantify how many millions of dollars we've saved government over the years by keeping people off the public dole,” Decker said.
       In seeking to make the agency more “Kraushaar-esque,” the Silver Key CEO emphasized that in no way was he criticizing his predecessor, John Morse, who served for about two years before resigning when he ran (successfully) for state senator in 2006. Decker praised Morse for making difficult but essential organizational changes that streamlined Silver Key's efficiency, and added that the senator continues to be helpful by supporting senior-aiding legislation in the Statehouse.
       The new CEO's philosophy has earned the support of Kraushaar herself. In an interview last week, she said she believed Decker “will take Silver Key back to where it was.” Noting his background, which includes nine years in nursing homes, she described him as “steeped in loving concern for the elderly. I think he's that kind of individual.”
       Plans call for Kraushaar to help Decker in some ways, although her duties are not strictly defined and she is not slated to keep office hours.
       Even on the outside, Kraushaar said she regularly sees people she knew from her career. “They tell me what Silver Key meant to them all these years,” she said. “These are not people who wanted to beg for help. They just needed someone to put an arm around them in time of need.”

Westside Pioneer article