Community celebrated at Pequot Lakes banquet

Chamber honors five Excellence in Service Award winners at inaugural event

Pequot Lakes Chamber Excellence in Service 2023.jpeg
Pequot Lakes Chamber Excellence in Service Award winners were honored Jan. 12, 2023, at a banquet at the Pequot Lakes American Legion: back row from left, Jenni Gonczy, Volunteer of the Year; Shari Monahan, Employee of the Year; Brandon Andersen, Business of the Year; Tyler Gardner, Citizen of the Year; front row from left, Nancy Ryan, School Staff of the Year; and Jill Andersen, Business of the Year.
Contributed / Pequot Lakes Chamber
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PEQUOT LAKES — More than 115 people filled the back room of the Pequot Lakes American Legion on Thursday, Jan. 12, to celebrate the community.

Read more on the award winners
Four local people and a local company cited for accomplishments to the community
Shari Monahan, Hopkins Health and Wellness - Lakes Area Clinic office manager, received the 2023 Pequot Lakes Employee of the Year award from the Chamber of Commerce.
Nancy Ryan is the Pequot Lakes Chamber's School Staff of the Year Excellence in Service Award winner

The Pequot Lakes Chamber’s inaugural Excellence in Service Awards honored five winners after a social hour and dinner of prime rib or pecan encrusted chicken.

All 2023 award winners praised the Pequot Lakes community.

Jenni Gonczy: Volunteer of the Year

Gonczy thanked the “community members who collaborated to put on this inspiring event.”

How lucky are we to live in a community where there are so many extraordinary people to do this?
Jenni Gonczy

She told a story of driving by Trailside Park all lit up for the holidays with her daughter. How lucky are we to live in a community with such a nice park? Gonczy asked her daughter.


She later learned that 26 volunteers spent 300 man hours over several months to decorate the park.

“How lucky are we to live in a community where there are so many extraordinary people to do this?” Gonczy asked.

Nancy Ryan: School Staff of the Year

Ryan thanked the person who nominated her — Pequot Lakes Community Education Director Joell Tvedt — for bringing her out of her happy anonymity and making her proud to be the person Tvedt described.

She thanked others she works with who helped her reach jobs as a custodian and technical theater coordinator, also praising the community where she works.

Tyler Gardner: Citizen of the Year

Gardner greeted the evening crowd with his trademark “Good morning!”

The mayor and business owner thanked city staff who carry out what the council directs, and employees at his businesses, Pequot/Gull Lake Sanitation and Sibley Mfg, who allow him time to do what he does for the community.

He said it’s the community as a whole that gets behind ideas to carry them out, like lighting the big tree in Trailside Park.

Shari Monahan: Employee of the Year

Monahan said she is blessed to live and work in a wonderful community.


Her mantra is: grateful, thankful, blessed - three pieces that fill her cup even on trying days.

Monahan works with people in the community and builds relationships both in and out of her place of employment - Hopkins Health and Wellness.

She believes smiles and hugs are important, and she feels blessed by the support of her family, coworkers, friends and the community as a whole.

Lonesome Cottage: Business of the Year

Brandon and Jill Andersen thanked current and former employees for their work at Lonesome Cottage, now in its 25th year.

There’s nothing better than being in a small community.
Jill Andersen

The Andersens bought the company 20 years ago, transforming it from a retail store in the lakes area to the largest rustic furniture maker in the country.

Branden Andersen also thanked loyal customers and vendors.

An emotional Jill Andersen thanked her team and the community.

“I was not excited to move up here 20 years ago, but I’m grateful every day to be in this community,” she said. “There’s nothing better than being in a small community.”


She cited city staff, businesses, Community Action of Pequot Lakes, the Pequot Lakes Chamber and the school district.

“Look at where we’ve come and where we’re going,” she said. “It’s super awesome and I’m excited for what’s coming.”

Nancy Vogt, editor, may be reached at 218-855-5877 or Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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