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News / Northwest

Legends Casino disburses nearly $1.1 million to community groups

By Donald W. Meyers, , Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash. (TNS),
Published: June 2, 2024, 4:00pm

TOPPENISH — More than 130 nonprofits and community organizations will split about $1.1 million in grants from Legends Casino Hotel.

Representatives of the 135 organizations came to the Yakama Nation casino’s event center Wednesday to pick up checks distributed through the Yakama Cares program and the Community Impact Fund. A group that trains service dogs for veterans, a youth mentoring program and the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office are among the recipients.

This year’s grants totaled $1.09 million, which is based on a percentage of the casino’s revenue.

“This is one of the most heart-warming jobs I have,” said Deirdre Fojuwaye, the casino’s marketing director. “I enjoy listening to the stories of these organizations.”

The criteria for awarding Yakama Care grants was slightly different this year, Fojuwaye said. In addition to being non-tribal and nonprofit, the organizations applying for funding also had to be classified as charities, which she said winnowed the field.

On the bright side, she said, groups that were awarded grants were able to get more money.

Legends received applications from 467 organizations and pared the list down to 113, which received grants ranging from $1,000 to $20,000 out a total of $516,319.

Yakima police Officer Dulce Diaz was there to pick up a $1,500 check for the Washington Law Enforcement Exploring Advisors. The Explorers are a youth program affiliated with Scouting America oriented toward law enforcement.

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Diaz said the grant money will be used to purchase equipment to train explorers in CPR and first aid.

She said it gives teens an exposure to the field of law enforcement, as well as teaches them leadership skills.

“It’s a great recruiting tool,” Diaz said, noting that several YPD officers, including Lts. Chad Stevens and Ira Cavin, and Sgt. Mike Durbin were explorers when they were teens.

Safe Yakima Valley received a $3,000 grant that will go toward its youth mentoring program focusing on Toppenish. The group works with youth ages 10-17 who are considered at an elevated risk for substance abuse.

“Everything we do revolves around substance use prevention among youth,” said Makayla Lopez, Safe Yakima Valley’s community coordinator. “When you focus on the youth, it trickles into their families and the community.”

The program pairs youth with adult mentors in the community who can be positive role models, as well as helping youth see their potential, such as being able to complete their education and even head to college.

Randall Keene, with Eltopia-based Service Peace Warriors came with Farmir, a 14-month-old German shepherd support dog, to pick up a $10,000 check. The money will go toward veterinarian costs, dog food and supplies for the program that trains dogs to assist veterans.

Since 2017, the organization has placed 90 dogs with veterans who do a variety of tasks such as helping veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as with mobility and stability.

The casino also provided $576,887 in grants from its Community Impact Fund to various organizations. The Yakima Valley Local Crime Lab received $9,000, while the sheriff’s office and Yakima County Fire District 5 each received $53,500.

The Yakama Nation Tribal Council’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous People committee received $18,500.

Reach Donald W. Meyers at dmeyers