Senior Center celebrates anniversary, recognizes namesake

Crews put up the letters for the Gilmore Senior Center, named after El Dorado Hills' tireless senior advocate Moni Gilmore. Village Life photo by Julie Samrick
Crews put up the letters for the Gilmore Senior Center, named after El Dorado Hills' tireless senior advocate Moni Gilmore. Village Life photo by Julie Samrick

Seniors enjoyed a celebration luncheon Friday, June 28, to commemorate seven years since the Ramona “Moni” Gilmore senior center opened its doors. Days later the festivities were capped with a sweet ending many called long overdue: A prominent sign formally recognizing Gilmore was installed out front.

Before her death in 2008, Gilmore was unanimously credited at the luncheon as the catalyst behind getting the senior center open. A community activist, Gilmore served on the El Dorado Hills 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  county officials to turn it into a senior center. Gilmore left the bulk of her estate to the cause.

“Moni was formidable,” said Yvonne Griffin, president of the Senior Council and assistant to Senior 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’s buildings.

“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 EDHCSD 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,” Kenneweg added.

The senior center serves approximately 2,500 lunches a month; half 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; they 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 live entertainment.

More cause to celebrate  — last month the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors approved adding an onsite senior day care and then on July 1 the new sign bearing Gilmore’s name was installed.

“The sign was a long time coming. It was approved four years ago, but got held up at the county level,” Kenneweg said, explaining that someone at the county said they don’t name buildings after people.

“They must not have known Moni,” she added.

The sign was a gift from the El Dorado Hills Firefighter 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,” he said. “That’s what life should be all about.”

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