Best wishes and thank you!

As you may know by now, our exceptional Executive Director, Ellis Katsoff, has stepped down from his role. Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down virtually with Ellis and chatting about his time at Eli’s Place and his plans for the future.

I knew Ellis had written a book called Life 3.0: Protirement NOT Retirement, so I was curious to know what the next phase of his protirement was going to look like. While you might be familiar with retirement, protirement is “simply defined as doing what is fulfilling in the third chapter of our lives.” Instead of seeing retirement as an end, it may be seen as an opportunity for growth. 

When I asked about his future plans, it was clear that Ellis has spent lots of time thinking about the topic and has come up with a list of things that he plans on doing in the next phase of his protirement. As he explained in a recent blog post on LinkedIn, “I am revising my Protirement Checkerboard. It now includes other protirement activities like travel, painting, time with family (3 great kids and 3 amazing grandchildren) and being a volunteer advisor with CESO (Canadian Executive Service Organization). A new protirement activity that my wife and I are launching this coming fall will be a podcast series, focused on all the interesting questions of life that challenge our world.” He also reassured me that this would not be the last we would be seeing of him at Eli’s Place. Although it will be in a different capacity, Ellis will definitely be around as a volunteer to help bring Eli’s Place to life.

The reality of getting Eli’s Place up and running was something that Ellis and I discussed during our conversation. Unfortunately, due to COVID, Eli’s Place has not yet opened its doors. Ellis explained to me that if it weren’t for COVID, Eli’s Place would probably be quite close to welcoming its first guests. Thankfully, Ellis reassured me that the roadblocks of the pandemic are largely in the rearview mirror for our organization. As Canada moves out of COVID life, the goal of the board at Eli’s Place is to raise money and purchase property for the building that will serve as our new home. Ellis also shared with me some exciting news that an architect has already offered his services pro-bono to build Eli’s Place. It sounds to me like we are closer than ever to opening, and personally I could not be more excited!

The need for Eli’s Place is clear. When children reach 18 years-old, they graduate out of residential mental health treatment opportunities into the adult mental health system which currently has no options of this kind of care. This is a massive gap for young adults with severe mental illness. What I learned from Ellis during our conversation is that Eli’s Place is based on research from 33 different residential facilities that treat young adults with severe mental illness. The main model for Eli’s Place is based on Gould Farm, a residential therapeutic community located in Massachusetts that was founded in 1913. Gould Farm has over 100 years of research indicating the success of its program. Currently, we do not have anything like it in Canada. Ellis visited Gould Farm and saw it in action. He was convinced by the success of Gould Farm. The need for something similar in Canada is undeniable.

I’ve heard from others in our organization that Ellis is known as someone with strong leadership skills who is also adept at bringing new ideas and new voices in to shake up the status quo. Seeing “the big picture” and strategizing are second nature to Ellis. He’s also been an excellent spokesperson for Eli’s Place in media interviews, meetings with government officials, and mental health stakeholders. His wealth of experience and contacts in the mental health sector have brought us many opportunities we might not have had otherwise. Ellis made himself available to everyone in the Eli’s Place community for phone conversations and coffee meetings.

On a more personal note, I’ve known Ellis for about two years now and have learned so much from him. I first met Ellis at an information session about Eli’s Place where we discussed creating a peer advisory committee. Since then, Ellis and I, along with the help of many others, created a peer advisory committee to work alongside the board of Eli’s Place and offer a more youthful perspective. Ellis has also provided me with mentorship and knowledge as I navigated post-graduation life and helped with my decision to pursue my Master of Social Work. His career identified what it means to be truly innovative and I learned that sometimes it is important to step outside your comfort zone in order to make a dream come to life.

I want to extend a HUGE thank you to Ellis! Personally, I am so grateful for Ellis’ guidance and wisdom. From the broader perspective of the Eli’s Place organization as a whole, I can confidently say that we will miss having Ellis guiding our progress but are filled with gratitude for everything Ellis has offered to Eli’s Place. 

Ellis, we wish you all the best and can’t wait to see what the next phase of your protirement brings!

Picture of Emma LittleEmma Little

Emma Little is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work at the University of Southern California. She is in the Social Change and Innovation department and would like to pursue a career in mezzo-macro social work in the mental health sector. 

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