When someone talks about senior banking in Colorado Springs, the first person to come to mind is Gloria Francis. For almost twenty years her name has been synonymous with seniors, not only in banking but in social issues as well.
In 1975 she approached the then president of Central Bank, who she knew, and said: "if you'll hire me, I'll do the best job that I can." He took the chance on this homemaker friend with no experience and the rest, as they say, became history. At that time seniors represented 10-15% of the bank's accounts and in 1994 that group had grown to 60-65%.
"I got the idea to start some programs," says Gloria, " and the first one became Fun and Friends." Seventeen years later Fun and Friends have become a group of about 300 people who gather at The Acacia, a downtown senior center in Colorado Springs, every last Sunday of the month for dances, entertainment and maybe a brief speaker.
Reflecting back, Gloria commented, "In this business, we think that clothing, shelter, and food are most important, but companionship rates up there pretty high. Many seniors suffer loneliness -some have lost spouses, some have come from other states to join sons or daughters and found that they lead busy lives." So Gloria began to bring these seniors together.
"There was really something missing from Fun and Friends and that was minority participation, so I started the Historical Society, a misnomer because they don't really study history. Most of them are minority seniors and we have dinner and a social at the Senior Center every 2 or 3 months. Usually, about 200 people show up for these."
"I'm really lucky because the bank sponsors a lot of my activities. They cosponsor a luncheon with the Urban League each month at Hillside Community Center, they sponsor the Senior Luncheons, they sponsor 'Fun and Friends', they sponsor coffees and seminars, functions at nursing homes and retirement residences, so the bank is very community-minded and they encourage me to participate in all of these activities."
As for the future, "According to demographics, the senior population is the fastest growing population in the country. I'm sure more and more banks are going to be concentrating on senior accounts. They should be doing more programming to encourage more seniors to come to their banks."
And Gloria sees herself continuing to help others because "I love them. I've worked so closely with them over the years and I do what I can because these are people who need people."