The current Senior Housing Board recognized Donna Zimmerman for her 30 years as manager of Senior Housing in Monticello, with a special reception at the Monticello Eagles Club. From left are Roger Hearn, Dave Arduser, John Null, Donna Zimmerman, Sue Ballou, Larlita “Lolly” Kurt and Ruth Zirkelbach. Absent from photo is Betty Manternach. (Photos by Kim Brooks)
The Riverside Apartment complex for seniors is located along E. Fifth Street in Monticello. The scenic area looks out at the golf course.
By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
In June, Donna Zimmerman was recognized by the Monticello Senior Housing Board for her 30 years of dedication as Senior Housing Manager. Zimmerman helps run both Riverside Apartments and Sycamore Gardens.
As Zimmerman explains it, she was hired after the untimely passing of Sam Schuetz, who passed away in December of 1982. Schuetz was managing Senior Housing at the time of his death. Zimmerman said Carol Hagen was on the Board at that time, and took over as interim manager.
“She did not choose to keep the position, so the Board went looking for a manager,” Zimmerman said.
At that time, Zimmerman and her husband Norm decided to move their home office into town, and were looking for space to rent.
“We decided to rent Sam Schuetz’s office,” she said. His office was located in the old bank building, one door west of Monticello Sports.
Glenn Adams was president of Senior Housing at the time as well, and asked the Zimmermans if they would be interested in managing the senior apartments.
“The timing was fabulous!” said Zimmerman. On June 10, 1983, the job was hers.
It was quite an arduous task in even getting senior housing complexes built in Monticello in the first place. In 1978, public hearings were held at City Council meetings concerning a Community Development Block Grant Senior Housing was trying to get. The funds were needed to acquire and develop a site for the housing project. At this time, they were considering three different parts of town for Senior Housing: near the senior home, near Shannon School and behind the former Hoag Duster facility. An article in the Monticello Express that ran in 1978 states that the senior citizens preferred the site near the Hoag Duster facility “because of its proximity to the downtown area, churches and city park.”
A few weeks later, Senior Housing was turned down for the grant by HUD (Housing and Urban Development) to buy the Hoag Duster site and adjoining land. The application was for $299,000. It was reported that Monticello’s application ranked 42nd among 229 others. Only the top 16 were financed.
Schuetz was quoted as saying, “There is no way to finance this project without the grant. The grant would have saved the elderly a great deal on rent, because then we wouldn’t have had to cover the costs of land acquisition. I don’t know what we’re going to do. We’re going to have to look for other land, but we don’t know where we’re going to find it.”
The Senior Housing Board wanted land within city limits, with city sewer and water connections.
Eventually, things worked out, as in 1982, senior apartments along E. Fifth Street (Riverside Apartments) were built that year and opened in July to serve the elderly, handicapped or disabled. The Sycamore Gardens along E. Ninth Street were built in 1990.
In 2006, Senior Housing Inc. celebrated 20 years of service with an open house at Sycamore Gardens. On the Board at that time were Sue Ballou, Ray Poppe, Donna Zimmerman, Kim Rochau, Vernon Null, Betty Manternach, Freda Hanken, Vera Schoon and Jim Stadtmueller.
In her 30 years with Senior Housing, Zimmerman said she’s seen changes over the years. “When we started managing the 24 units on E. Fifth Street they were brand new and things went very well,” said Zimmerman. “Later, the Board decided to build more units and spent considerable time deciding on which property to purchase.”
The whole purpose behind Senior Housing has been to provide safe and affordable housing for low-income elderly, (persons 62 years of age or older), as well as handicapped and/or disabled people regardless of age.
Many community and county services also frequent Senior Housing, including JETS, Senior Dining (Meals on Wheels) and nurses from Above & Beyond.
“We have tried to manage the apartments to the best of our abilities and continue to update and maintain them to a high quality standard,” expressed Zimmerman.
Over the past 30 years, Zimmerman joked she could write a book about all of the people she’s met because of her position as manager.
The Board praised Zimmerman for her managerial skills, saying, “It takes hard work and dedication.”
“Norm and I are looking forward to continue managing the 48 one-bedroom units in Monticello,” she expressed as to whether she’ll continue this job for many more years in the future.
Sycamore Gardens, the other senior housing apartment complex in Monticello, is located off Highway 38 north on E. Ninth Street.