When Rivers Casino opened its doors in Des Plaines in 2011, they made a promise to the community that they would give back. To the surprise and delight of many, the Rivers Gives Foundation has consistently over-delivered on their word — donating thousands of employee volunteer hours and more than $9 million since its inception.
“We give through lots of different channels,” explains Corey Wise, senior vice president and general manager for Rivers Casino. “When I think about my job, I think about creating a great environment for team members. I see it as my responsibility to make Rivers a better place to work tomorrow than it was today. We do this in a number of ways, but community involvement a big factor. Great team members giving great service make Rivers a great community partner. The more our team members feel part of the mission of our property, the more engaged they are as employees. When I see the outpouring of support of our initiatives by our team members, it’s incredibly gratifying.”
When the Rivers Gives Foundation reviews the charitable requests that come in daily, they look for opportunities that will allow them to do more than just make a monetary donation — they look for community partners where they can make authentic connections.
“We like it best when we can do more than just give money,” says Luis Pinedo, vice president of human resources. “We like when we can show that we really care.”
To this end, Rivers Casino sponsors a Volunteer Incentive Program where any team member who volunteers eight hours of time will receive a $50 check from the casino. “This is where we put our money where our mouth is,” adds Pinedo. “The volunteerism of our team members is that important to us.”
Last fall, the Rivers Gives Foundation decided to ramp up philanthropic efforts by partnering with a number of national organizations, including Autism Speaks, Susan G. Komen, and the Alzheimer’s Association.
“The organizations we partner with are always so surprised by the effort we put in,” Pinedo says, recalling how the casino built a sensory room in one of their training spaces for team members to experience during the month they raised awareness for Autism Speaks. “This was such an eye opener for our team members,” he adds. “It made such an impact that employees asked if we could keep this up year-round because they felt the calming benefits of such a space. And we did. The local impact that we’re making has really made all the difference for us.”
Devin Maddox, senior counsel at Rivers Casino and chair of the Rivers Gives Foundation, says that she looks forward to coming to work each day.
“We made a commitment to the Illinois Gaming Board when we opened that we would give back to the community,” Maddox explains. “From top-to-bottom, Rivers Casino has stood behind this promise. We’re not just checking a box. We do it because we enjoy it and it’s the right thing to do. We really think outside of the box about how many people we can help in a meaningful way.”
Maddox says that the Rivers Gives Foundation tries to equally divide their financial contributions among four education-based causes: Illinois scholarships, Rivers Scholarships to their team members and their families, Des Plaines nonprofit programs, and other Illinois nonprofit organizations.
One of the contributions Maddox is most enthusiastic about is the financial backing they gave to the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce to launch their Back-to-Work Program for Veterans. “The reality is that this program will benefit the community well beyond the veterans it touches directly — it will positively impact everyone they come in contact with,” she says.
Maddox finds it refreshing to work for an organization that knows that being a good community partner will always positively impact the bottom line. “People want to support organizations that they believe are doing good in the world,” she adds. “We see the buy-in from our team members and customers every day. The energy is amazing. It’s incredible to be part of an organization that authentically advances the community good.”
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Ann Marie Scheidler is a contributing writer with Make It Better who has made a career writing about people, their favorite places, and the things they value most. Ann Marie, a pearl-loving yogi who has a thing for travel, lives in Lake Forest with her husband and five children.
Ann Marie is currently working with Camp Hope’s development committee on their annual fundraiser, scheduled for Nov. 10. Camp Hope is a summer camp run by the youth group at St. Mary’s Church in Lake Forest. The camp is targeted for disabled teens and young adults so that they can experience summer camp with their peers, while also giving their families a respite from the day-to-day care so they might be able to take a guilt-free vacation without their disabled child. Each camper is matched with two teenage buddies from the St. Mary’s youth group who offer one-to-one care and supervision for the camper for the week. “It’s the most selfless and amazing thing I’ve ever seen, and these buddies leave the experience knowing that they can do anything,” Ann Marie says.