New Brainerd lakes area nonprofit aims to help emergency workers, their families

Lakes Area Heroes seeks funding, partnerships

Lakes Area Heroes logo 2022.png
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PEQUOT LAKES — Isaiah Moengen grew up as the son of a Crosslake firefighter who also was a first responder and emergency medical technician.

So he knows firsthand what people in that profession do and what they go through.

Lakes Area Heroes Isaiah Moengen.jpg
Isaiah Moengen

“Being a kid that had a father growing up responding to those calls and having to leave the dinner table to go save someone’s life - it’s such a sacrifice that all these people make. And nobody ever really stands up to properly thank them. … How do we actually reach our hand down to help them up?”

With the help of others, Moengen came up with an answer in Lakes Area Heroes.

The area nonprofit is up and running with a goal to raise funds to help those who work in the public safety field and their families. Think police officers, firefighters, emergency medical services workers, jailers, dispatchers and other law enforcement support staff.


Lakes Area Heroes used to be a branch of Woods to Water Real Estate in Nisswa, where Moengen works. Donations through real estate transactions went to a broad range of local heroes.

“Once I took over that portion, I realized there was a greater need than just a few hundred bucks,” Moengen said.

He had an idea to form a nonprofit as a more effective way to give back more, and to give back to the people who directly help others on a day-to-day basis.

It feels amazing to feel the support from the community and to have some validation that what we’re doing is right.
Isaiah Moengen

Moengen reached out to heroes and community members to make sure there was a need and to learn what that need was.

“And after probably a year of meeting with people, meeting with organizations, meeting with businesses, meeting with the local heroes themselves, some of the local PD (police department) members and firefighters, I found out that the big need that was there was for those heroes and their families,” he said.

Lakes Area Heroes serves four counties - Crow Wing, Cass, Aitkin and Morrison. The board includes:

  • Moengen, president.
  • John Ryan, vice president, is the Nisswa mayor and a 30-year former law enforcement officer, including in Pequot Lakes.
  • Barb Gevik, secretary, worked for more than eight years with Crow Wing-Morrison County Community Corrections in Brainerd and for nearly 30 years with the Apple Valley Police Department records office before retiring.
  • John Kinkeade, treasurer.
  • John Moengen, Isaiah’s father who was a Crosslake firefighter for 22 years, is a board member.
This is a group of people that does not ask for help. We help other people and we don’t need help with it. You eat it, you swallow it, but you don’t ask for help because that’s what we do for you.
John Ryan

Isaiah Moengen’s initial idea was for Lakes Area Heroes to buy public safety equipment, but he found there’s a bigger need to help heroes who experience hard times - to pick them up when they fall.

“How do we return that favor?” he asked. “Because we know they’re not going to ask.”


The targeted heroes, Ryan said, “is a group of people that does not ask for help. We help other people and we don’t need help with it. You eat it, you swallow it, but you don’t ask for help because that’s what we do for you.”

The goal is to help these people when they have a need, such as when they are injured and out of work, or when a spouse or child gets sick and the family needs help paying bills.

That can include medical bills, mortgage payments, utility bills and more. Rides to and from appointments qualify as well.

These people’s jobs take a mental toll on them and their families, and Gevik hopes Lakes Area Heroes can offer therapeutic resources.

The Lakes Area Heroes organization is looking to receive donations from community members and local businesses, and to partner with larger organizations.

The organization will reach out to heroes who need help through referrals from local police and fire chiefs, and others in charge.

A partnership with BlazeAir Productions in Pequot Lakes will result in that company producing videos to help promote hiring in the area, where firefighters are especially needed, as well as police officers.

Lakes Area Heroes plans to host a fundraising banquet next spring. Any individuals, businesses and organizations that would like to donate and support this endeavor, or anyone who would like to help promote the organization or volunteer can email or check the group’s Facebook page “Lakes Area Heroes.”


“It feels amazing to feel the support from the community and to have some validation that what we’re doing is right,” Moengen said. “And we’ve had a lot of conversations with the heroes themselves and a lot of the local officers, and just telling them the ideas we have and how to support them and how to give back to them and see their faces light up has been so rewarding.”

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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