Last updated on July 7th, 2019 at 02:34 pm
Potawatomi Hotel & Casino raised more than $1 million through its 2015 Heart of Canal Street charity initiative, in large part thanks to the casino’s bingo players.
The Heart of the Canal Street program tallied $1,031,543 for the benefit of 31 area nonprofit organizations focused on serving youth across southeastern Wisconsin. The casino celebrated its fundraising success during a special reception on Friday night. To view a slideshow of the reception, click here.
The casino’s annual charity program has run for the past 22 years – formerly as Miracle on Canal Street – as it has collected funds primarily through special bingo games played at the casino each August through December. The program was rebranded into Heart of Canal Street this year.
In rebranding the program, Potawatomi also introduced a new “Charity of Choice” element in which one selected nonprofit organization took home the first $100,000 raised for the program.
Potawatomi identified youth violence as a top issue for Heart of Canal Street to address, according to Ryan Amundson, Potawatomi’s external communications manager. The casino designated Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board as its first Charity of Choice. MAWIB will pump the $100,000 into a new workforce investment initiative, Youth Works MKE, through which the organization and partner agencies will connect teenagers at risk of criminal activity with jobs, mentoring and other workforce readiness resources.
That program will largely follow the model of a Chicago program known as the One Summer Plus program.
“The issue of gun violence affects everyone in southeastern Wisconsin,” Rob Cherry, MAWIB’s director of youth services, said in a press release. “Our partnership with Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, along with their generous donation, allows us to take substantial steps in pursuing prevention of gun violence among our youth.”
Potawatomi plans to continue awarding $100,000 to a Charity of Choice in future years, according to Amundson.
Additionally, 20 Heart of Canal Street nonprofit recipients were selected at random in November, and 10 other organizations won funds after being chosen as signature charities by Potawatomi’s media partners in August.
Randomly selected nonprofits were: Arts@Large; Artworks for Milwaukee, Inc.; Aurora Health Care on behalf of Aurora @ Home; Best Buddies Wisconsin; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dodge County & Watertown; Casa Guadalupe Education Center Inc.; Family Center of Washington county; Florentine Opera Company; Know Thyself; Mequon Nature Preserve, Inc.; Nehemiah Project; Renaissance Theaterworks; Riveredge Nature Center; River Revitalization Foundation; RUACH Inc. Arts Organization; Safe & Sounds, Inc.; Sunset Playhouse Inc.; The Threshold Inc.; Urban Ecology Center; and Wildlife In Need Center.
The program’s signature charities were: Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee, City Year Milwaukee, COPE Services, Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization, Hunger Task Force, Milwaukee Public Library Foundation, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern Wisconsin, Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, and The Women’s Center.
Heart of Canal Street, which also collected dollars through casino beer sales, a poker tournament, a slot tournament and “A Tribute to The King Contest” ticket sales, supports youth-serving organizations in line with the Potawatomi’s value of nurturing future generations, according to Amundson.
“It really goes back to tribal traditions and their priorities,” he said.
The program also shines a light on critical needs in the community and the individuals working to fill those needs, Amundson said.
“They’re really the angels of our community, and this is the least we can do to help them further what they’re doing,” he said.