Despite her busy schedule as the Administrator for the Centura Senior Life Center, she stays actively committed to dozens of nonprofits and civic projects each year such as the DU Spirituals Project, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Women’s Auxiliary for Research and Education (AWARE), the “Make a Wish” Foundation, The Links, the Children’s Diabetes Foundation, the American Heart Association, and the African American Research Library, and Elenora chaired the Cleo Parker Robinson 30th Anniversary Gala.
Elenora represents herself in the community with integrity, class, and grace. She has credibility and a confidence that comes from all of her wisdom and experience. Elenora, who was raised by a single, hard-working mom, has also worked hard and diligently for everything she has achieved, and she isn’t ready to just sit back and relax yet. Elenora says: “I’m not even close to entertaining thoughts of retirement.”
This champion of diversity, and advocate for the elderly, plans on doing good deeds for a long time to come. For the sake of our community, that’s a thumb’s up!
Why did you decide nursing was the right field for you? I didn’t know for sure that I would go into nursing, but when I was growing up, you were either an educator or you would go into the field of nursing. I was good in Science - and I like people, so it was a good fit. I was very fortunate going to school in Iowa, because Iowa is one of the most literate states there is. All of my family went to schools in Iowa.
How did both you and Ken end up living and working in Denver? I went from school in Iowa to working in Washington D.C. and then New York. My husband, Ken, was doing his internship, and all of the dental interns had to finish their service applications, so we were sent to Colorado. Ken was the Chief Dental Officer at the Federal Youth Center here in Denver for the U.S. Public Health Service, and then he liked this type of living in the mountains, and he started taking the boards; I got my license transferred, and our careers took off.
I went back to school here, got another undergrad degree in Gerontology - which is my specialty, and I got my Masters in Management. I have worked here in this building for 33 years, but in different areas: I’ve managed grants; I’ve traveled for them to teach; I’ve been the Director of Nurses; I’ve just been able to grow, and now I am their Administrator, and I’m enjoying this position - I see it all come together. I’m on call all the time; I have a wonderful director of Nurses; and I have a good staff that makes my life much easier.
How did you get involved in the community? I started getting involved because I realized, once you get into a career, you can always end up being in the office, and I wanted to do much more for the community. This building is easy for me to hop on the Colfax viaduct, and I’m easily downtown at the DCPA or other places, and it makes it easy to be actively involved and support our favorite charities.
Since you are in the field of Gerontology, what do you think is the biggest problem we are facing these days with all the “Baby Boomers” getting older? To make sure they have access to health facilities. This insurance thing just drives me up the wall. It shouldn’t be considered a privilege to have insurance, it should be a necessity. Everybody is not in the same bracket. People have taken better care of themselves, and we do have a lot of Baby Boomers. I’d like to think that whoever you are, that you have access to health care.
What is something people might not know about you? I used to be the “Jazzercise” Queen. I’d go in at 6 a.m. in the morning before work.
What are the things you are most passionate about? I’m a liver; I like to be out there. I like to be involved and I want to be useful. I don’t just want to be involved to be involved, I want to contribute. I was brought up in a small town watching my mother do a lot of things for people – not for money, but because there was a real need.
I enjoy meeting people and seeing what other people are doing, I like travel, and I haven’t done enough of it, and now we’re getting our youngest child out of college, and I will be able to do more of that. I’m also very passionate about our young people learning to appreciate the elderly.
What did you say you wanted to be when you were a young girl? Probably as a young child, my mother always preached to me, “You’ve got to be able to do something to take care of yourself,” so I didn’t think of anything that was too outrageous, but I knew I liked to be around people.
When I was in the 8th grade, I worked for a lady who was a diabetic, but I didn’t know that when I took the position. I used to go have dinner with her, and help her do her dishes and sit and chat, and I noticed she used to sit and squeeze oranges and put them into little glasses.
I finally realized one day what was going on when I went there after school, and I rang her bell and no one answered, I knocked on her door and got concerned, so I went in, and I could hear moaning. Most people would have been afraid, but I went into her room, and I found her on the floor having an insulin reaction. I knew where to find the phone numbers of her doctors, and somehow I just knew what to do at that moment. I went to the refrigerator and just started getting this orange juice down her – and she came around, and I called her physician, and he told me to put some extra sugar in the orange juice and that I had done the right thing. I then knew I could do nursing, and I wouldn’t be afraid of it.
Tell me your idea of the perfect vacation? My husband’s family is from Barbados, and we go there quite often. I just lay out on the beach, I walk the beach; you can see your feet because the water is so nice and clear and blue on the sand. I don’t need a lot of people then; I take my music, I take my reading. I can relax. That’s a quiet vacation. If I wanted to do something for stimulation, I would go to Europe and just visit Italy, France, England, etc. and do everything.
Who is your hero? My mother. My father died when I was young, and she raised five of us by herself, and she saw to it that we had everything we needed. As I get older, I now remember some of the sayings she came up with like: “Everyone takes their turn in the barrel!” You could be financially okay, but your health is bad, or your marriage could be on the rocks, but your kids are okay; and she said that you just have to learn how to cope, you just had to. I admire that; bringing up five kids and making sure we all went to school - and she loved us all the same – but differently.
With me being the youngest one, I learned from my older sisters what to do, and what not to do. Mom didn’t play games when she let us know what we needed to do, she was very proper, church-going, we couldn’t hang out all night and party, “not in this house” she would say – especially if you had to go to church the next day.
I always think when I have to make a decision, what would she have done? We make so many mistakes in our lives, and you know what is scary, sometimes we keep making the same mistakes over again. I try not to beat myself up too much and have the same philosophy she had that if there is something you can change in your life, change it and move on. If it’s nothing, move on anyway. It takes a maturity to learn that.
What are some great words of advice you can give all of us? “Live as much as you can, while you can.” Don’t get old and say: “I wish I wish I wish - at least be able to say I did, I did, I did!”
What are some other “words to live by” that your mom gave you? Oh, so much. One thing she used to say to me, - and I am the youngest one in the family, and I was a “clothes hog” and my sisters liked to wear my clothes – is: “Be a good sport, it’s just clothes!” And, she used to say to me when I went off to school: “Nobody lives in this world by themselves.” As I have grown older, I can appreciate that.
Is there one charitable event you really look forward to attending each year? The “Make-A-Wish Gala,” and the “DU Spirituals Project.” The choir, if you ever get a change to hear it, it’s wonderful! Their gala is the first weekend in November, and their voices are beautiful. They sing “A cappella,” and they are into the meaning of spirituals. They are such a diverse choir.
How do we get more people interested in community involvement? By role-modeling. We need to bring in the young people who are sincere and want to roll up their sleeves and do the work; because we won’t be around forever. There are plenty out there, you just have to convince them to get involved.
What do you consider your proudest achievement? Probably getting through my Master’s Program and writing a thesis. Most of all, I have two beautiful boys, they aren’t just out there, they have gotten through school and have made a place for themselves. The oldest one is now involved in the community. He works with places like the Ronald McDonald house.
Also, I’m proud of my husband; he’s involved in many boards in town – probably more than I am. I’m proud just to be giving back. As I said what my mom told me: “We don’t just live in this world by ourselves,” and if we think we do, you will see when you need some help, and there is no one there.
If you could trade places with anyone for one day, who would it be? Oprah! Just to be able to give the way she does out in the community; it’s amazing. I’d also like to have a personal trainer and someone to cook for me so I can stay slim. I just like what she does. She makes a lot of people happy. She is herself, and she is sincere.
If you wrote your own auto-biography at this point, what would the title of it be? The Time of My Life. I’ve been very blessed at each stage of my life. What do I have to complain about! I appreciate everything that happens to me. I learn from everything.
What are you most disciplined about? I’m not disciplined about buying clothes; I love clothes. Probably my job and doing the appropriate things; staying in compliance, following the state regulations; making sure the patients get the best care that they can get. It’s expected of me, and I can do it well, because I know how to do it.
What is your greatest fear? I worry about my children, that they do the right things to maintain a good and safe life. Now I have a grandchild, and I want her to be cared for appropriately, and I’m very proud of her mother and father and how well they take care of her. She goes to a Montessori School (The Family Star) that teaches her both English and Spanish. I hope our kids have learned something from us about making the right decisions.
What is something you can’t live without? My faith. I could live without the material stuff, but I have to have something more to look up to and know there is something more out there.
Is there a favorite book you can recommend to all of us? The one that really inspired me was a book of Maya Angelou’s poetry. I like her “Ain’t I a Phenomenal Woman” poem. I enjoy her books and her cards; they have a lot of meaning.
How do you want future generations to remember you? My oldest son would say I exposed myself to a lot of different people and learned something from everybody, and I appreciated and respected diversity, and I did a lot of giving and embracing. My youngest son would say: “Mom liked good clothes!” But essentially, they would say I was always there for them when they needed me to be.
Elenora serves (or served) on the following Boards: The DU Spirituals Project Board, the Alzheimer’s Association AWARE Board, the State Board of Nursing, the Center for Hearing, Speech and Language Board, the Total Long-Term Care Board, the Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD) Board, and she is the Western Area Links National Trends and Service Chair.