Pequot Lakes Excellence in Service Award recipients named

Four local people and a local company cited for accomplishments to the community

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PEQUOT LAKES — Lonesome Cottage Furniture Company.

Tyler Gardner.

Nancy Ryan.

Shari Monahan.

Jenni Gonczy.


Those are the winners of the 2023 Pequot Lakes Excellence in Service Awards, sponsored by the Pequot Lakes Chamber of Commerce.

An awards banquet will be held from 5-9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12, at the Pequot Lakes American Legion to honor the award recipients. To attend the banquet, contact the Pequot Lakes Chamber at 218-568-8911 or .

Business of the Year

This award recognizes a business that has helped grow the community through job creation and facility expansions, buys products and services locally when possible, fosters an excellent working relationship with its employees and leads by example in participating in community events and activities.

Lonesome Cottage Furniture Company, owned by Brandon and Jill Andersen, has been operating in Pequot Lakes for more than 20 years.

This company that has a local and national impact in the furniture industry added 50-plus new manufacturing jobs in the past 15 years. Lonesome Cottage works hard to promote a positive culture within the company and works hard to serve the community, the nomination letter said.

Lonesome Cottage always looks local for suppliers and services first, supports local businesses and works hard to advocate for local businesses with local politicians.

Citizen of the Year

This award honors and recognizes a community member whose contributions help make living in the community a better place.

Tyler Gardner is mayor of Pequot Lakes and owns two businesses — Pequot/Gull Lake Sanitation and Sibley Mfg.


“He helps the local businesses by supporting them all,” the nomination letter said, noting he goes above and beyond average to promote and help the city. “Shopping and eating locally are first on his list.”

Gardner is involved in Community Action of Pequot Lakes, supports a local podcast to promote the town, and he and his wife, Kim, donate to a local family every year at Christmas.

“His heart is huge and often gives away more than necessary,” the nomination said.

School Staff of the Year

This award honors a Pequot Lakes School District employee who makes the school district a successful place for students, other staff and the community through acts of service.

Nancy Ryan is the technical theater director and “give me a job and I’ll do it,” her nomination letter reads.

She has worked for the Pequot Lakes School District for one and a half years as facility supervisor, open gym/pickleball supervisor, Community Education instructor, technical theater coordinator, Greater Lakes Area Performing Arts volunteer and custodian.

“She is good with both adults and children. In fact, more students have become interested in the behind the scenes part of theater since she has been a part of the district,” the nomination letter said.

“She takes on every task with a smile, whether it be scrubbing walls or figuring out why a light refuses to turn on in the theater,” it said.


Ryan was called a hard worker and a true asset to the school district who has helped improve an older theater facility and is a team player who helps out wherever and whenever needed.

Employee of the Year

This award recognizes an employee who exemplifies service and professionalism.

Shari Monahan has been office manager at Hopkins Health and Wellness-Lakes Area Clinic for more than 15 years.

“She greets every patient with warmth and caring, brings a smile to them, encourages even when they are in pain,” the nomination letter reads. “She has a heart for senior patients and goes above and beyond for our seniors.”

Monahan has created a work atmosphere that is “truly magical,” remembering birthdays, anniversaries, and employee trials and tribulations.

“Shari is the glue that keeps all of us in step with each other,” the letter said.

In addition, Monahan has visited patients in the hospital, sent cards of encouragement and made food for sick and hurting patients.

Volunteer of the Year

This award recognizes an individual who has given their time and skills unselfishly, and in turn, has a positive effect on the community.

Jenni Gonczy teaches Sunday school to children ages 3-4 and stepped up to be First Communion teacher when the pastor resigned.

She volunteered with Vacation Bible School for a week at church and participated in the live Nativity at Christmas.

She volunteered with the Summer Stretch program with the ELCA churches in the lakes area for six weeks, volunteers with the Pequot Lakes School PTA and is on the volunteer advisory board for the Pine River-Backus Family Center Home Visiting Program.

Gonczy spearheaded the fundraising drive for the Pequot Lakes splash pad, raising nearly $100,000 in less than a year.

“Jenni has slept and ate splash pad since November 2021,” the nomination letter said.

“She owns the responsibilities of what she raises her hand for,” the letter said. “She thinks it through, she is very kind, organized, caring and all-around good soul.”

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

(Editor's Note: This story was updated Dec. 18, 2022, because of incorrect information received. The Summer Stretch program the Volunteer of the Year worked with is part of lakes area ELCA churches, not Pequot Lakes Middle School.)

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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