New Kentlands Community Foundation Executive Director Elisabeth Monaco has deep roots in the community. She and her husband, John Kraft, began planning their “starter house” here in the early ‘90s. Two children and 25-plus years later, the house has grown with them. And they were the first couple to hold their wedding reception in the newly renovated Kentlands Mansion on July 25, 1992. They invited “people who had purchased around us” because in those early days, everyone knew each other.
“At the beginning, there were a lot of parties and get-togethers,” she recalled. “That’s how the Oktoberfest started.”
After the reception, the newlyweds walked home.
At the time, Gaithersburg was a leap for Monaco who was working in downtown D.C. And the Brooklyn-born, Long Island-grown New Yorker fielded some concern from friends and relatives about the location and concept of the new community.
Monaco’s husband is an architect and “he knew about the Kentlands through professional journals and things like that,” Monaco said. Plus, he had just begun working at Bechtel when it was located on Shady Grove Road.
“In retrospect, we did a good thing,” Monaco said.
She remembers how impressed they were that in the community charter and in their closing documents “there was this Foundation that was started to better the community.
“That’s what I want to bring back …” she said of her new position as Foundation director, “that sense that this is amazing. We live in a community that has an altruistic, nonprofit, outward-looking organization that exists for the betterment of the community, that’s not tied to ‘what am I getting out of it,’ not tied to a personality, but is actually tied to the community as a whole.”
Monaco plans to attend the New Buyers’ Coffee Hours to share her enthusiasm “about what a unique institution this is. … We are a community and we have a uniqueness that isn’t shared by many other developments.”
Through the years, Monaco has volunteered in the schools—”our kids went to the local schools and our daughter is still at QO”—and with Foundation programs. She has been involved in the Progressive Dinners and as 5K race warden; she remembers volunteering during the race while “pushing a stroller with my little girl.” Plus, every year 5K participants stream by her house.
While Monaco feels that right now her job is “listening and learning with an eye toward the future” to determine where the Foundation Board and community want the Foundation to go, she is passionate about volunteerism and how it strengthens community. “This is unique in this area,” she said of the Foundation. “Volunteering is important to the community as a whole; it creates that sense of community.”
Volunteering, she said, also benefits the volunteer—but not in any one specific way. “People get what they need from volunteering,” she observed, “For some people, it’s a social outlet. Other people are in it because they really believe in what they’re volunteering for. Others are doing it because it fulfills a need inside of them.”
Whatever their reason, Monaco stressed how much she appreciates people who are “so giving of their time.” Everyone is so busy, and when someone volunteers four hours of their Saturday, I am very grateful, she said.
Going forward, she’s excited about the June 23 classical music concert on the Kentlands Mansion lawn, one of the Foundation’s newest programs. The Kentlands Film Society, Kidserve, Go Green, Kentlands Acoustic Jam, Kentlands Photography Association, the Village at Kentlands, One Main Street Initiative and Kentlands/Lakelands 5K are all Foundation programs.