If you know our team members (or are one yourself) you know that they’re often out sharing their expertise, creativity and passion to make a difference in our communities. This quarter, we are proud to honor four outstanding HEROs who gave their time and efforts to make a difference: Jennifer, Sue, Rainey and Randy! These caring, hardworking individuals will each receive a $500 check to share with the nonprofit of their choice.
Jennifer Schell, Buffet Manager & Sue Mikos, Assistant Buffet Manager, HORSESHOE HAMMOND
Jennifer and Sue are two HERO stars with incredible green thumbs.
When the Horseshoe Hammond Employee HERO Garden needed a new owner in the spring of 2016, Sue Mikos and Jennifer Schell stepped up to the plate. Jennifer and Sue coordinated the planting, gardening and harvesting of more than 700 square feet of vegetables and fruit. Harvested produce was available to employees to take home after providing a donation that benefited the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana.
Midway through the summer, the Greater Hammond Community Services Center, had lost their biggest produce donor and could no longer supply local residents with fresh produce. The decision was made to donate all the employee garden produce directly to the Center so they could continue to provide produce to those in need.
In only six weeks, Horseshoe Hammond donated more than 500 pounds of fresh produce to the food pantry; all of which was made possible by Sue and Jennifer – amazing ladies!
Rainey uses her design and construction expertise to make incredible impact in communities in need. Through Rainey, Caesars is able to donate old room items, from blankets, to televisions, to nightstands and more, to local charities. Thanks to her work, 3.5 million cubic feet of products have been saved from landfills and found new homes.
Additionally, this massive in-kind donation was valued at least $556,000. Since Habitat fr Humanity no longer needs to use funds to purchase these items, it will go towards building a two-story townhouse for 20 families in 2018.
Recently, Rainey worked with HomeAide to reallocate room items from Las Vegas to Houston to support families whose homes have been devastated. Rainey is constantly finding opportunities to leverage Caesars’ resources for the betterment of communities.
Randy combines his passion for cooking with a passion to help others to be an all-around exceptional HERO Star.
For Randy, volunteering doesn’t just mean cooking and serving – it’s the whole dining process, from brainstorming a menu to the transportation of dishes back to Harrah’s after the meal. Randy and his staff have provided food for Manna Food Bank events, The Cherokee Cancer Support Center, Drive Away Hunger events and the Community Table. For the past 13 years, Randy has worked with the Blue Jean Ball and Empty Bowls fundraisers to end hunger in western North Carolina. This year, the event raised more than $100,000!
Randy is a stand up volunteer who can always be counted on to cook his heart out and to recruit others to get involved – thank you, Randy!
At Caesars, we’ve always honored the ongoing sacrifices made by active service members and veterans, and we keep thinking of ways to be more focused on efforts that support and advocate for veterans.
A key way we’re implementing this philosophy is through our commitment to recruit hardworking veterans to join our teams. Since 2013, Caesars has hired more than 2,500 veterans through our Enlisting Heroes initiative. Additionally, our HERO volunteers have put in more than 4,000 hours aiding community veteran groups.
A Word from Vets at Caesars
Three veterans we are proud to call Caesars team members shared their thoughts on serving our country and working at Caesars locations:
“To me, Veterans Day is a time to remember those who have made a choice to serve their nation, knowing that if the time comes, it’s time to get out there and defend it with their lives. Those who have put on the uniform as a member of our U.S. Military Services deserve not only a Veterans Day, they deserve all of our respect and admiration.”
“[In the Air Force] I learned so many different things that I apply regularly in my current position. I’ve been certified as a training instructor, a crisis/hostage negotiator and critical incident stress-management peer counselor. All of which help me deal with the different personalities of my people and the patrons who regularly come to [Harrah’s Louisiana Downs].”
Throughout the U.S., we honored veterans in different ways. Read on to learn more:
Thanking our Vets
Many regional Caesars president sent out a letter thanking veteran team members and included a commemorative Challenge Coin. Harrah’s Ak-Chin and Harrah’s Council Bluffs are just two examples of properties following this tradition.
Team members and a guest enjoy the U.S. Vets benefit dinner. Top: Thomas Henderson, Navy vet and Planet Hollywood assistant hotel manager. From left to right: Michael, Navy vet and guest; Ronan Urena, Navy vet and Paris Las Vegas/Planet Hollywood manager front services; Michael Rapp, Army vet and Planet Hollywood front services supervisor.
Supporting Las Vegas Vets
In advance of Veterans Day, we sponsored a benefit dinner for U.S. Vets, a national nonprofit which provides housing services, job assistance, counseling and more. In Las Vegas, we sent our HERO volunteers to paint and make minor repairs to the U.S. Vets facility. We’ve also started a month-long shoe drive to support local homeless veterans after we heard this was a pressing need. To date, we’ve collected 500 pairs of shoes.
Caesars is also bringing our partner Clean the World to our local Veterans Village to put together more than 350 hygiene kits and provide lunch for 100 veterans that reside at Veterans Village. Our business resource group of veteran team members, SALUTE, is partnering with our corporate HERO volunteers to make it all happen. Hygiene kits will be distributed to veterans who struggle with homelessness.
On Veterans Day, we supported the Las Vegas Veterans Day parade as a marquee sponsor. It’s the largest Veterans Day parade west of the Mississippi, and we were proud to see our veteran and active duty team members march.
Thanks to all veterans for their service and especially to our veteran team members and guests!
As a table games supervisor at Harrah’s Joliet, Dianna is known by guests and colleagues alike as the face of the Joliet Relay for Life, supporting those fighting cancer. Dianna’s HERO Star Grand Prize award was celebrated during a dinner and reception with Harrah’s Joliet property leaders and peers on October 6 at The Reserve, Harrah’s Joliet’s fine dining steakhouse. Dianna was recognized for volunteering a total of 150 hours and raising more than $12,000 for Relay for Life in 2016.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s®
Dianna’s HERO Star celebration also let her volunteer leadership shine. She led her fellow team members in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s® last Saturday at Rock Run Forest Preserve. Dianna brought the same passion to the Walk that she brings to each cause she supports, but this one was a bit more personal because her mother is one of the five million Americans struggling with the disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.
Harrah’s Joliet Raised More than $3,700 for Alzheimer’s Research
Harrah’s Joliet hosted a table at the Walk to promote the Healthy Brains Initiative, the HealthyBrains.org app and online community. Harrah’s Joliet HEROs also sold raffle tickets for a Las Vegas trip donated by Caesars Entertainment, donating all proceeds from ticket sales to Alzheimer’s Association. Finally, Harrah’s Joliet presented a check for $3,742, collected from September Employee Jeans Days (where employees are encouraged to donate $5 to wear jeans to work). Couldn’t join the walk, but still want to help out? You can donate to Dianna’s fundraising effort for Walk to End Alzheimer’s here.
From left to right, Michael Saunders poses with his business partners Ernest Asiedu and Dulani Christian.
Caesars Entertainment’s commitment to diversity extends into our supply chain. From the chicken served in meals at Horseshoe Baltimore to the VIP ride that gets you there, many individual companies provide products and services. Whenever possible, we try to support companies run by women, people of color, LGBTQ people, veterans and more – what’s known as “diverse suppliers.”
We sat down to chat with business owners to learn about what they do and we’re featuring their stories here on the blog. Next up is Michael Saunders and his business partners at Universal Metropolitan Group Chauffeured, Ernest Asiedu and Dulani Christian.
Caesars Citizenship Blog: Thanks for speaking with us today, Michael. What does UMG Chauffeured do?
Michael Saunders: We provide VIP transportation for Horseshoe Baltimore – our goal is to make each trip feel like our guest has his or her own personal chauffeur. Anybody can drive a car, but this is about service.
CCB: We know that Horseshoe Baltimore guests really appreciate that VIP service from UMG! How did the company come about?
MS: Well, I’m doing this interview on behalf of my two business partners – we’re a team. Ernest Asiedu is our director of operations and Dulani Christian is our director of human resources. The three of us go way back in the hospitality business, and that’s what we’ve based UMG’s services around.
We worked in guest services together at Renaissance in downtown Baltimore. I left for a while to work for the railroad, but I wanted to provide more for my family when my first child was born, so I decided to go out on my own and start a business. I reconnected with Ernest and Christian through Renaissance and because we trusted each other, we decided to join forces. We incorporated UMG Chauffeured on July 1, 2004 and today we have eight full time employees plus a few part-timers.
CCB: Thirteen years in business – congrats! Where does UMG serve, besides Baltimore?
MS: We’ve expanded far beyond Baltimore – we also serve Atlantic City, New York, even North Carolina. We have a network of affiliates across the country. Also, we have a few drivers whose clients have flown them somewhere just to drive them!
CCB: Sounds like a seriously loyal customer. So if I’m on my way to Horseshoe Baltimore, what rides do you have for me?
MS: We’ve got 12 vehicles in our fleet, from Chrysler 300 sedans to Chevy Suburbans to minibuses for larger groups.
CCB: What’s your advice for success in business?
MS: You know, we had some dark hours in 2008, but going through a recession means we know we can make it long-term.
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to know that you don’t jump out there and make a lot of money at first. You have to have a vision, and once you truly believe it and pursue it wholeheartedly, you’ll enjoy going to work.
Ernest and Christian, my business partners, feel the same way, and our employees rally around that. When times get lean, we band together.
CCB: What’s your favorite activity outside of running UMG with Ernest and Christian?
MS: Well, we actually socialize outside of work with each other and UMG’s drivers. We’ll have get-togethers and bring our families, and we try not to talk about work too much!
Sometimes I’ll check out Jack Binion’s for a meal, too.
As part of Caesars Entertainment’s commitment to diversity, we seek diversity in our supply chain, too. From the chicken served in meals at Horseshoe Baltimore to the VIP ride that gets you there, many individual companies provide products and services. Whenever possible, we support companies run by women, people of color, LGBTQ people, veterans and more – what’s known as “diverse suppliers.”
We sat down to chat with business owners to learn about what they do and we’ll be featuring their stories here on the blog, starting with Nicole Salha, CEO, Platinum Foods.
Caesars Citizenship Blog: Tell us, Nicole, what types of company is Platinum Foods?
Nicole Salha: We’re a food distributor providing produce to all of Caesars Entertainment’s Gulf Coast properties. If it’s a fruit or vegetable and you’re eating it at a Gulf Coast Caesars location, it came from Platinum Foods.
CCB: So how did Platinum Foods come about?
NS: I’ll share the long version of my story. I worked my way through college and was a recent graduate in the recession. My first job was in commercial real estate and consulting, and I was successful there, but when the recession happened, our staff was reduced by half. I thought, “OK, I just finished school, what can I do to improve my life?” I didn’t like the experience of losing my job and thought opening a small business was a good solution. I went to my mom’s hometown in Port of Spain, Trinidad. A lot of my family members work in distribution, and I got lots of good advice. For a while, I thought of opening a small café in Trinidad, serving the tourist market.
CCB: What changed for you?
NS: Well, I went home and a friend pointed out that as a Hispanic female, I’m a minority. He thought I could have success starting a business here in the U.S. and serving corporate customers due to diverse supplier programs.
CCB: Like our diverse supplier program at Caesars.
NS: Yes, exactly. So I did my research and started my company when I discovered there was a lack of diverse suppliers in my industry and in the Gulf Coast. I incorporated my business on March 1, 2011. I started out in dry goods and disposables, eventually adding on refrigerated items. In my first year, I had just one customer. Today, Platinum Foods is a multi-million dollar business.
CCB: This is a really inspiring story! How’d the name Platinum Foods come about?
NS: I love jewelry and design. Platinum is the best you can get, so the name reflects my commitment to service, plus my interest in design.
CCB: What’s your advice for others who want to start a small business?
NS: I have friends who think the only way to get ahead in business is to invent a new concept or item. They seem to think that you need to reinvent the wheel to get ahead in business. However, that is actually not the case.
I believe that if you combine hard work, time, and true dedication with a knowledge of your target marketplace, you may have a viable business.
CCB: How do you figure out what your niche will be?
My grandfather in Trinidad was a wholesaler and distributor forever, but doing business in the Caribbean is different than here in the U.S. So it’s kind of in my DNA, but I still had challenges, of course.
You really have to do your market research and talk to potential customers before you launch a business so you can understand what the needs are.
CCB: And what about as a Hispanic woman in business, do you have any special advice?
NS: The world is changing – if you want to get into a field that’s primarily men, just be brave and keep pushing until you get there. It takes a lot of “no’s” to get to one “yes.”
CCB: That’s really inspiring advice. It sounds like you’re a very motivated person – do you ever take time to relax?
NS: Yes! I do visit Caesars locations in Las Vegas and my customers on the Gulf Coast, taking some time for shopping, dining and gaming.
I love to visit art galleries and spend time with family and friends. I also love to cook – I make different ethnic foods, from Moroccan to French to Cajun. I’m also becoming a vegetarian. I think that anybody can live a good healthy life if they cook for themselves with lots of fresh produce.
CCB: If you weren’t an entrepreneur, what would you do?
NS: I’d be a travel blogger – travel half the year and relax the other half.
CCB: Sounds like a dream career to us! Thanks, Nicole.
Second Wind Dreams finds out seniors’ deepest-felt dreams, large and small, and makes them come true. Along the way, it works to change perception of aging, too. Since Caesars Foundation works to help older individuals live longer, healthier, more fulfilling lives, we’re a good match!
Celebrating International Second Wind Dreams Day last month, Caesars Foundation and Caesars HEROs cooked up some fun events and surprises for seniors living near Caesars locations throughout the U.S.
A VIP Ride
Sixty Las Vegas seniors enjoyed the annual High Roller ride at The LINQ, receiving VIP treatment from HERO volunteers who serve as guides, pointing out favorite local landmarks and even seniors’ residences.
Las Vegas HERO volunteers get ready to share the High Roller with seniors.
The Trip of a Lifetime
Bobby and Irving are friends living at the Absecon Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Absecon, New Jersey. In spite of being relatively close to New York City, they’d never visited the Big Apple. Caesars Foundation and Second Wind Dreams made Bobby and Irving’s dream come true with a tour of the city and a ferry ride. Bobby and Irving rode in style in a Caesars limo and enjoyed lunch on us, too. No sooner was the trip over than they were pledging to go back and paint the town red again soon.
Bobby on his way to New York.
Elder care communities across the U.S. celebrated International Second Wind Dreams Day with a variety of parties.
From the Western-themed shindig at the North Las Vegas Care Center to bingo prizes like snacks, candy and chocolates at Horizon in Henderson, Nevada, Caesars Foundation chipped in to make the day special. Caesars Palace also sent cupcakes to the Silver Sky assisted living facility in North Las Vegas.
Yum – Caesars Foundation sent Silver Sky cupcakes in honor of the big day.
In New Orleans, Harrah’s New Orleans HEROs served up a Foundation-funded barbecue at the Unity Nursing & Rehab Center. Second Wind Dreams fulfills needs through its Heart and Soul Dreams, too – Caesars Foundation purchased clothing and personal care items for three Unity residents who arrived with only the clothes they were wearing.
Our Lady’s Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare residents enjoy an outdoor barbecue with their newly renovated courtyard.
In Pleasantville, New Jersey, Our Lady’s Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare received a much-needed renovation of its courtyard. More than 50 HEROs rolled up their sleeves to spiff up the space for Our Lady’s residents, adding garden boxes, installing a new roof and providing a brand new grill from Caesars Foundation. The courtyard was ready in time for the International Second Wind Dreams Day barbeque, hosted by HEROs.
Atlantic City area HERO volunteers at the newly renovated courtyard at Our Lady’s Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare.
We’ve shown seniors our appreciation each May for many years. This year, we wanted to extend the fun, so we stretched it out three months to create Senior Appreciation Quarter. During April, May and June, Caesars team members got together to celebrate seniors in our communities, inspire healthy aging and make seniors’ lives a little brighter.
Our team members are not only giving, they’re competitive! This year we competed to see who can show their care and appreciation for seniors in the most creative and fun ways.
Read on to learn about how our HERO volunteers showed seniors some love through evenings out, parties and more.
For many, the highlight was the Dinner & a Show series, featuring dinner at AC Burger Co. and seniors’ favorite local musical groups, such as The Motowners. Atlantic City locations partnered with a variety of senior centers, such as the Vineland Veterans Home, the ARC of Atlantic County and more.
HERO volunteers and the Caesars Foundation partnered with Villa Raffaella, an assisted living center, to add some sparkle to the center’s annual pageant. Volunteers brought flowers, sashes, trophies and prizes for pageant participants. As the grand prize winner for the 2017 Miss Villa Raffaella, Lori was awarded tickets to the Legends in Concert, including dinner at Martorano’s and a limo, for herself and 10 friends!
Second Place: Lake Tahoe Locations
Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and Harveys Lake Tahoe worked with the Carson City Senior Center to evaluate local needs. One HERO volunteered through AARP to share his skills in tax preparation, while another who plays the guitar serenaded seniors during one of the hosted luncheons.
The highlight was supporting the Music & Memory program, in which beloved music brings hope to seniors struggling with Alzheimer’s. Through Music & Memory, HEROs distributed iPods loaded with personalized music playlists to seniors; music has a proven ability to improve quality of life and memory.
Senior guests and younger guests alike responded to Lake Tahoe locations’ efforts – there was a six percent increase in guests over Senior Appreciation Quarter.
Remember Ernestine Richards, one of this year’s top three HERO stars? This past week she received the all-star celebration she deserved.
Ernestine is a Casino Services Cashier at Horseshoe Tunica and a local staple at the American Cancer Society Harrah’s Hope Lodge in Memphis. The Lodge provides free accommodation, and a home-like atmosphere to cancer patients undergoing treatment. Ernestine regularly participates in game nights and dinners – chatting with residents, serving dinner and playing bingo – in fact, she has totaled 71 hours of volunteer time (and counting) and hasn’t missed an event since January.
The two-day HERO Star celebration event started with a celebratory dinner for Ernestine and five of her family members and coworkers. The dinner was attended by Caesars regional president Scott Barber, other local team mates and an American Cancer Society representative, all of whom expressed their appreciation for the great work Ernestine has accomplished in the local community. “We’re all here because of a connection to Caesars Entertainment’s HERO program, a shared commitment to our community, and this year’s companywide top volunteer and Tunica’s own Ernestine Richards,” shared Scott Barber in his opening remarks.
The following day was the main event, as 20 HERO volunteers from Horseshoe Tunica and Tunica Roadhouse came together to construct and dedicate an outdoor pergola at the American Cancer Society Harrah’s Hope Lodge. The pergola will stand as a semi-protected patio to provide the 240 Hope Lodge residents a space to enjoy the outdoors. In addition, the lasting monument will serve to honor the relationship between the cancer patients and the local Caesars HEROs who have volunteered more than 2,500 hours at Harrah’s Hope Lodge over the past five years.
After the hard day’s work and to celebrate Ernestine’s giving, hardworking spirit, she received a 2-night stay in Horseshoe’s skyline suite and was treated to a 90-minute spa treatment at the Spa at Horseshoe. Finally, Ernestine was given $500 to donate to the nonprofit of her choice – unsurprisingly, she chose the Hope Lodge.
Many thanks to Ernestine and all our HEROs for helping Caesars live out our commitment to make our communities healthy and vibrant places to live and work.
Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate? Caesars Entertainment team members can often be found sharing our Caring Culture with the communities where they live and work. They volunteer their time, expertise, creativity and passion and we love to share their stories.
Each quarter, Caesars Entertainment celebrates our HERO Stars whose volunteer efforts go above and beyond. This quarter, we are proud to honor Felicia, Linda and Christina for making a difference.
Read on to learn more about our HERO Stars for the second quarter of 2017. They’ll each receive a $500 check to share with the nonprofit of their choice.
For more than 10 years, Felicia has been inspired by the story of Alex Scott, a victim of childhood cancer who started Alex’s Lemonade Stand to raise money for kids suffering from cancer, one lemonade stand at a time. For years, Felicia donated money, but in 2013, her niece suggested she make even more of an impact.
Inspired, Felicia started a city-wide carnival for kids with games, balloons, bouncy houses and, of course, lemonade. Last year, Felicia got her location, Planet Hollywood, involved as well as Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas. HEROs from these locations hosted lemonade stands for their fellow team members, raising $5,000 in six days.
Today, Felicia has raised more than $11,000 for Alex’s Lemonade Stands to support children in the Las Vegas Valley and throughout the U.S. Because of her hard work, the Las Vegas chapter of Alex’s Lemonade Stands is one of the largest in the western U.S.
According to the nonprofit organization Share our Strength, 13 million American children suffer from hunger. Linda at Harrah’s Cherokee was saddened by this, so she started Lunchbox Heroes with her fellow team members. With one school lunch costing $2.60, Linda and her team were determined to provide lunches for children who are disadvantaged but still don’t qualify for free or reduced lunches. Lunchbox Heroes works with six counties to donate money needed to provide lunches for students throughout the region.
In its first full year of operation, Lunchbox Heroes has raised more than $16,000. Linda’s team has been instrumental in encouraging payroll deductions, which will raise more than $26,000 over the next year to support childhood hunger.
You could call Christina a volunteer of all trades. In the second quarter alone, Christina volunteered 47 hours to support park cleanups, sexual assault prevention, hunger, literacy, the Salvation Army, the arts and child abuse prevention.
A caring person to everyone around her, Christina especially supports causes that offer some needed help to her fellow team members. The Children’s Christmas Fund provides gifts to families facing hardship during the holidays, while the CARE fund gives team members facing unexpected financial needs an extra boost. She is particularly supportive of veterans, having organized a Harrah’s Cherokee recognition program for veteran team members and guests alike.
Christina also serves as co-chair of Harrah’s Cherokee’s employee engagement committee and serving on the location’s HERO board. She organized six HERO events last April alone.
Thanks to these three HERO Stars for their leadership in making their communities better!
Have you heard of People Planet Play? It’s our new name for our longstanding commitment to our team members, our communities, environmental excellence and Responsible Gaming. This week, we launched our People Planet Play report on all that we accomplished in 2016 (with some select stories from 2017, too). Please check out our highlights below and let us know what you think.