Seniors enjoyed a celebration luncheon Friday, June 28 to commemorate seven years since the Ramona “Moni” Gilmore senior center opened its doors on June 30, 2006.
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Days later the festivities were capped with a sweet ending many called long overdue: a prominent sign formally recognizing Gilmore was installed out front at 990 Lassen Lane in El Dorado Hills.
Before her death in 2008, Gilmore was unanimously credited at the luncheon as the catalyst behind getting the senior center built. A community activist, Gilmore served on the fire board and worked closely with then fire chief, now District 3 El Dorado County Supervisor, Brian Veerkamp to make it happen.
Once the old fire station on the corner of El Dorado Hills Boulevard and Lassen Lane became available, Gilmore and Veerkamp worked with the county to turn it into a senior center. Gilmore even left the bulk of her estate to the cause.
“Moni was formidable,” said Yvonne Griffin, president of the senior council and assistant to center director Janet Kenneweg. “The senior center was Moni’s dream; she was on fire.”
Until 2006 local seniors gathered at the El Dorado Hills Community Services District facility on Harvard Way.
“There would be 150 kids on one side of the gym and a group of seniors on the other, separated by a curtain,” said Kenneweg. “There just wasn’t enough facility space.”
The CSD was asked if they’d staff the new center and run the activities while the county oversaw the building and management of the weekday senior nutrition program.
“The CSD said,’Yes,’ and it’s been a win win for both sides ever since,” said Kenneweg.
The senior center serves approximately 2,500 lunches a month; half of which are delivered by volunteer drivers to homebound seniors.
“For some seniors, this is the only social contact they get,” said County Commission on Aging District 1 Commissioner and El Dorado Hills resident Hal Erpenbeck. “The drivers know them. The seniors look out for them.”
“Anyone over 60 can go to any county in the United States for a free lunch,” said senior council treasurer Betty Engelhardt. “But our lunches are the best. Many counties freeze their meals and then heat them up in microwaves. Our food is cooked fresh everyday in Placerville; it’s delicious.”
Engelhardt is also a regular at twice weekly “sit and fit” exercise classes and Griffin said the demand, and space needed, for more activities are on the rise.
What would Griffin like to see in the next seven years?
“Even more space,” she said.
The atmosphere was celebratory at the anniversary luncheon. The menu included chicken cordon bleu, Maui salad, mashed potatoes and birthday cake. A four-piece jazz banjo band performed.
There was more cause to celebrate earlier in the week. An onsite senior day care was approved and then on July 1 the new sign bearing Gilmore’s name was installed.
“The sign was a long-time coming,” said Kenneweg. “It was approved four years ago, but got held up at the county level.”
At first someone at the county said, “We don’t name our buildings after people,” said Kenneweg. “They must not have known Moni.”
The sign was a gift from the El Dorado Hills Fire Fighter Foundation, said Supervisor Veerkamp. Once he became an elected official, Veerkamp was able to push the sign process along, he explained, a fitting tribute to a woman who did so much for others.
“Moni dedicated her life to serving the seniors,” Veerkamp said. “That’s what life should be all about.”