First responders called to senior residence ... for coffee and cake

Residents John De Cleene (far left) and Dean Streich (far right) posed with Lake Johanna firefighters and deputy Mike Servatka from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office. (courtesy of HRM Apartments )

Residents at Cottage Villas of Arden Hills on July 26 got cake and coffee ready for members of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office and Lake Johanna Fire Department to thank them for their service. (Bridget Kranz)

Although residents at Cottage Villas of Arden Hills swear they never get in trouble with the police, they do get a fair amount of visits from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office and Lake Johanna Fire Department for non-crime-related help.

On July 26 tenants invited public safety officials over for coffee and cake to thank them for the work they put in responding to medical emergencies and fire alarms at the independent senior living facility.

Although the frequency of calls varies, resident June Kerschner said she noticed two in a row just the week before, which she attributed to the heat wave. Lake Johanna Fire Chief Tim Boehlke estimated that his unit goes over to the residence roughly 50 times a year. 

All of his crews are certified as either EMTs or paramedics and frequently assist with time-sensitive medical emergencies at the residence. 

When Boehlke and two other firefighters stopped by Cottage Villas for this less traditional call, more than 20 residents had responded to a community room to greet them with slices of cake and cups of coffee ready to go. 

Carol Besaw, a longtime resident and activities coordinator at Cottage Villas, had the idea for the event just a week prior, following the two consecutive calls to the residence and an outreach visit from the sheriff’s office.  

“I thought, ‘Has anybody ever done anything for them?’” Besaw said, adding she hopes other senior residences will get in on the action and host similar appreciation events. 

“It isn’t often that you get a nice reception like what they had, with a party and all of that to celebrate,” said Randy Gustafson, public information officer for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office. “It also gives residents an opportunity to come out and gather together with everybody.”

Deputy Mike Servatka told attendees, “It helps us when you know your neighbors. Then if something does happen, you can help, whether it’s a medical emergency or a crime.”

Most residents said they came out to personally thank the responders, but some also saw it as an educational opportunity. The event’s two youngest attendees, grandsons of one of the residents, were even able to tour the police car and fire engine.  

“Some of the residents that I talked to hadn’t been at Cottage Villas very long,” said Boehlke of his conversations at the event. “I think it was a good opportunity for them to learn more about who we are and how we operate as a fire department.”

For her part, Besaw hopes the get-together becomes an annual event at the residence. “I don’t know one person whose life hasn’t been affected by a responder,” she said.


–Bridget Kranz can be reached at or 651-748-7825.

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