Lake Region Search and Rescue dream of a new home moving forward

Louise Oleson Journal Managing Editor
This sign is attached to the fence surrounding the Ramsey County Shop property located on the city’s South Side. The county is donating the property for the Search and Rescue building.

Come Tuesday, Feb. 16 the Ramsey County Commission will make a decision regarding which financial institution they will go with for the $400,000 loan to build a home for Lake Region Search and Rescue.

They received six proposals from six different local banks and tabled the decision on Feb. 2 to make sure the ones submitted didn’t include unseen costs and charges down the road. Ramsey County

Auditor Elizabeth Fischer was charged with contacting the six banks to determine what, if anything, the County would be charged in addition to the interest rate proposed.

Also, the commission wanted to know about paying off the loan earlier than planned, if they could, and what that might mean financially.

The organization is still accepting donations and waiting to hear from numerous grants - large and small - they have applied for from various sources.

According to Ramsey County Sheriff Steve Nelson, who in an official capacity oversees Search and Rescue for the County, they have raised $50,000 from individual donations, fundraisers and organizations. “That’s a sizeable number,” Nelson said.

“But it is a far cry from what we need.”

What happened

In late summer of 2015 the building Search and Rescue had been using as their headquarters in the city was damaged by high winds. When the city, who owned the building, went to make repairs, they found that the roof was not safe and therefore Search and Rescue had to find somewhere else to store its life-saving equipment and hold their meetings.

Places around the community, including Camp Grafton, were found to store the larger equipment but the situation sparked a dream for the group, too.

The dream

That dream was for their own facility, a place to store everything under one roof. The volunteers that make up the Lake Region Search and Rescue team believe that in the 34 (plus) years of serving the Lake Region and its surrounding area they’ve proven their worth time and time again. They decided to share their dream with the communities they have served in hopes that they could raise the money needed for an official home for Search and Rescue.

The calls Search and Rescue respond to come from Ramsey County, Benson County, Eddy County, Towner County, Nelson County and the Spirit Lake Nation. They are part of a larger area’s regional response team, too, going whenever and wherever they are called.

The greatest percentage of the calls to Search and Rescue are to assist in accidents, many in the lakes and sloughs of the region, but traffic accidents, as well.

The communities they’ve served have stepped up and pledged donations, either one-time donations, or annual donations over a period of time, all to help them build their home.

Others have held fundraising activities to benefit Search and Rescue.

More is needed.

Volunteer and member of Search and Rescue, Steve Heilman, says he and Matt Nelson and Randi Anfinson have been busy writing grants but there are more to apply for “out there.” He says North Central Planning and Ramsey County Emergency Manager Kristen Nelsen have been instrumental in finding funding sources.

“We’ve been applying for grants, even small ones,” Heilman said.

“The trick is to know where to apply. So far we’ve been able to get our applications in on time, when they come due, but I know there are more out there, we just have to find them.”

In the meantime they wait to hear on the results of those grant applications.

Heilman says they are running their “When will it sink” fundraiser right now, too. That is a source of income the group has had for a number of years. They put a vehicle - this year it is a pickup truck - on the ice and sell tickets on when it will sink as the ice melts. He says each of the 720 tickets they sell has a time on it, say for example 5 o’clock. If the ice melts and on a given day the pickup falls through the ice at 5 a.m. or 5 p.m. they win.

Money raised in this fundraiser, too, will help with building expenses.

Kristen Nelson, Ramsey County Emergency Manager, says she has been able to share with the group several avenues for grant dollars. In her position in emergency management, she is made aware of grants when they become available. She says when one comes along that she thinks might fit, she lets the Search and Rescue group know about it so they can apply.

She says, “I’m always on the prowl for grants that are available to help.” Recently she became aware of a USDA Rural Development grant that might be appropriate, for example. “I’m happy to steer them in the right direction to find those grant dollars that are out there to be had for groups like theirs,” Nelsen added.


Sheriff Nelson says plans are going forward, they have awarded the bid to the low bidder, Gleason Construction, and they are in the process of hammering out the details of the construction time-line and contract.

They are still looking for local professionals who would like to help by donating materials or labor - either in full or part - plumbers, electricians, heating and so on. If you are able to help with any of this, contact Sheriff Nelson or one of the members of Lake Region Search and Rescue.

“We want to do this project as responsibly as possible and to keep the costs to a minimum,” Sheriff Nelson said.

Ramsey County has made the commitment to take out a loan for the construction costs with the understanding that they will be paid back.  

Other donations are also still very welcome, Sheriff Nelson said, too. If your group or organization is looking to hold a fundraiser, keep the Lake Region Search and Rescue in mind.