Kelly Hovde: Truly Caring for the Clients & Residents

​Beyond collaborating with architects, designers, contractors and subcontractors, our project managers serve as the point-person for clients during projects. Doing all of that well requires strong communication, leadership and delegation skills. 

Frequently, that also means going over and above what is normally expected to delight and care for clients. 

Project Manager Kelly Hovde showed this during her recent work on the Orchards of Minnetonka senior living in suburban Minneapolis. 

Residents' Best Interest at Heart

Managed by Ebenezer, Minnesota's largest senior living operator, Orchards of Minnetonka is a 147-unit facility that offers the continuum of care – independent living, assisted living and memory care. Residents and their visitors enjoy a comfortable, home-like environment complete with a salon, chapel, club room, community room, two dining rooms and outdoor spaces with gardens.

Designed for Ebenezer's Dimensions program, the memory care area is truly extraordinary. We worked closely with Ebenezer to ensure the space accommodated residents' specialized needs well, starting with the floor plan. Everything in the memory care area revolves around the long, central, open shared living space. The residents' rooms, kitchen and dedicated dining room wrap around the outside.

“In memory care, people revert back to how they lived in their own homes, so spaces like this need to provide opportunities to do that in a safe and secure environment," said Kelly. “When standing at one end of the central space, you can see the whole memory care unit. Low walls built at different heights provide areas for sitting, sewing and laundry, as well as a kitchen designed to provide a safe experience for residents. This open floor plan makes observing residents throughout the space easier for staff, while giving residents visibility for easily locating nurses and staff." 

During a tour just before the end of the year, Kelly walked the Ebenezer team through the memory care kitchen. Using holiday cookies as an example, she showed how the design supports activities to recreate happy memories for residents. After staff bakes the cookies, residents can sit down comfortably and decorate them for sharing with family, friends and other residents. It was a moving moment, bringing tears to the eyes of a staff member who imagined what it would mean to a resident. 

Fastidious Attention to Detail

Going into the Orchards of Minnetonka project, Kelly had prior experience working with the client-owner of the building. 

“I had a standing relationship with the owner from past projects," Kelly said. “So, I paid extra attention to what I knew was important to them. They trusted me and knew that if they noticed something, I would have already noticed it. Minor details matter, like making sure doors don't shake after being closed and latched. We always check for that, but I paid extra attention to it, opening and closing every door a few times to make sure."  

“I don't think I did anything above and beyond what any of my coworkers would have done," she said. “We all do more than we are asked to do. On this project, we had a talented project management team, including Scott Shifflett and Tayler Matzke. We managed it together, divide-and-conquer style." 

Making it Personal and Fun

Working on long projects, our project managers develop close working relationships with our clients and focus on making the process enjoyable for them. 

“We always do things like take them out to dinner and buy them logoed shirts," she said. “But I think it's also my job to further personalize the experience and make it memorable for them."  

For example, occasionally two client contacts flew into Minneapolis from Atlanta and St. Louis to review the project.  Before one meeting in January, the coldest month of the year in Minnesota, Kelly sent each of them a care package in advance including an Opus-branded beanie hat, re-useable hand warmer and a small bottle of Fireball whiskey with a note that said, “Happy New Year! Just a few things to keep you warm while in Minneapolis next week." 

They also mentioned tiring of fancy steak houses and trendy restaurants when traveling at times, so Kelly took them to an eclectic, off-the-beaten path local restaurant in St. Paul. Wearing jeans and sweatshirts, they thoroughly enjoyed a casual evening eating Wisconsin cheese curds for the first time, followed by wings, juicy cheeseburgers and tap beer.

“They loved it," Kelly said. “I knew it would be OK because when we visited them once, they took us to one of their favorite local establishments for $1 beers and ribs. And we loved it, too!" 

Caring that Extends to Residents & End-Users

After Ebenezer occupied the building, Kelly was onsite one day wrapping up and making rounds. It was a Wednesday and a future resident approached Kelly and explained she was there for a tour. Kelly checked and the resident had actually come on the wrong Wednesday. The leasing staff wasn't onsite that day, so Kelly stopped what she was doing and showed her around the facility, including her future residence.  

“She wanted to make sure her furniture would fit, so I measured the rooms' dimensions and emailed them to her, along with photos from different angles," said Kelly. “I explained that since her residence faces east, she will enjoy many beautiful sunrises here. I understand that many residents, like her, are moving from houses they've lived in for years and have a lot of downsizing to do. She crossed my path, and I wanted to help her transition go smoothly." 

The woman was grateful for Kelly's help that day and continues to keep in touch via email, occasionally contacting her to say hello. Kelly also volunteers periodically at Orchards of Minnetonka leading crafting classes for residents. 

“Working at Opus brings out the best in people," Kelly said. “When I started working here I thought, wow, everybody really cares about clients and what we are doing. In the past I've worked with a lot of smart, hardworking people, but what struck me is that everybody is like that here. I was so impressed, and I still am."


Our associates take care of clients by ensuring the buildings we design and construct meet all of their requirements. Caring for clients, on the other hand, involves a willingness to go beyond what's expected to truly engage and show sincere concern for the client, their experience and their success. Read more stories of our associates Truly Caring for Clients.