working together

Two heads are better than one.

Six nonprofit senior living communities are taking this old adage to heart by forming a collaborative partnership called The Colligo Group.

Cornwall Manor (Cornwall), Fairmount Homes (Ephrata), Garden Spot Communities (New Holland), Moravian Manor Communities (Lititz), The Highlands at Wyomissing (Wyomissing) and Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (Harrisonburg, Virginia) are The Colligo Group partners.

“Colligo” is a Latin word meaning to gather, bring together, collect, harvest, unify or unite. It aptly defines how the partnership works together to resolve industry challenges.

The group was officially established in April 2021 and is managed by ForgeWorks, a subsidiary consulting company of Garden Spot Communities. The Colligo Group officers are president Steve Jeffrey, co-founder of ForgeWorks and Garden Spot Communities chief strategy/innovative officer; treasurer David Swartley, president and CEO of Moravian Manor Communities; and secretary Jerry Lile, president and CEO of Fairmount Homes.

“In 2018, Garden Spot Communities began research on new models for independent, faith-based retirement communities to address some of the rising disruptors in the senior living industry,” Jeffrey says.

A year later, 10 senior living organizations were invited to discuss the possibility of designing a model where they would remain independent, yet work together on common issues. Participants were selected that had a diversity in perspective and markets along with an interest in working collectively and sharing openly with one another. Six of the 10 jumped at the opportunity.

“As baby boomers reach their senior years, longevity increases and the number of disruptors increase and will continue to do so,” Jeffrey says.

The collaborative “colligo” model strives to be actively intentional about taking positive steps to help senior living organizations remain sustainable in the future, he says.

Judith Trumbo, president/CEO of Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, says the group provides a broader perspective with the forward thinking of other senior living communities.

"It helps to know other facilities face similar challenges and we have an opportunity to partner together,” Lile says. “The group focuses on fundamental values and the residents.”

Partners met in 2020 to develop the “colligo” model — a federated approach that allows the leadership of the participating communities to collaborate on solutions to shared workplace issues while at the same time remaining self-governing and maintaining their individual missions.

“Colligo is an exciting, innovative method to problem-solving for the changing senior living environment,” says Steve Lindsey, CEO of Garden Spot Communities. “The group brings their own strengths and diverse perspectives to support shared goals.”

Jeffrey says the group will identify individual needs, share best practices, apply research and testing, and then determine potential solutions.

Leadership staff members from each organization meet to work on a core focus area. Currently teams are focusing on ways to solve workforce issues: employee recruiting/sourcing, time-saving technology and new compensation approaches.

“Hiring and retaining good employees is an immediate priority to tackle,” says Lee Stickler, president and CEO of Cornwall Manor. “Our senior living residents need service on a 24/7 basis. Working together to find a positive strategy to address the issue will be beneficial to all of us.”

Kevin DeAcosta, president and CEO of The Highlands at Wyomissing, agrees that workforce shortages are affecting the service-based organizations, which need “hands-on people for hands-on care.” Working with The Colligo Group, he says, has been an “exhilarating, powerful experience.”

The partners have a two-year management contract with ForgeWorks. While the fee wasn't disclosed, all agreed it was nominal and a modest budget investment for the anticipated return.

ForgeWorks staff facilitate monthly partner meetings. Along with Jeffrey, primary staff includes Lois Dostalik, founder and former chief strategist for E4 Strategic Consultancy, Lancaster; Holly Rosini, former LeadingAgePA chief operating officer/executive vice-president; and Allison Cuthie, former Garden Spot Village associate director of development.

All the partners believe the group model and its focus on communication, building relationships and creating a forum for problem-solving will be a new direction for senior living organizations in the future.

“Working together with like-minded people to tackle a lot of challenges can help all of our organizations better serve our residents and really make a difference,” Swartley says.

What to Read Next