Gerri Chasko, director of the Eureka Community Initiative, has been named Mesquite’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year for 2018. Known to most people in Mesquite simply as “Gerri,” Chasko is the creative person at Eureka Casino Resort who dreams up clever ideas to help find funding for good causes and gives 110 per cent heart to any project in which she is involved.

Chasko and her husband Bob moved to Mesquite in 2003 after visiting a cousin here and falling in love with the town. By 2006 she was hired by Eureka Casino Resort as an administrative assistant, but soon was taking on other duties or dilemmas that were tossed her way. The effective way she fielded an overwhelming number of community requests for donations showed her bosses that she was keeping her eye on the ball by balancing cordial relations with the community while keeping Eureka’s good reputation and corporate finances in mind.

Andre Carrier, COO of Eureka Casino Resort, said about Chasko winning the award, “Gerri takes her work so seriously. With her, we had that once-in-a-generation experience to have someone so vested in the success of the Mesquite community. The Eureka family and the Mesquite community are a much better place because of Gerri’s work and care. There aren’t many like her in this world and we are extremely proud of her.  She is so humbled by this award.”

Early on, Chasko enthusiastically jumped into community life.  She met people in those early years who influenced her way of thinking about her role in the community. When she met Ann Rice and Gloria George, both since named Distinguished Citizen of the Year, she took on a new appreciation of the positive impact a dedicated volunteer can have on the community, and they changed her perception of retirement. “They were not just worker bees,” Chasko has said. “Their commitment and hard work inspire additional commitment and support from people who might not have considered becoming involved.”

In turn, Dr. Ann Rice admires Chasko’s special method of attacking some of Mesquite’s big needs. “She plans with a focus on a desired outcome and then she engrosses herself in the project.  She becomes part of the solution.” Gloria George responded to announcement of Chasko’s award by saying, “It’s not just what she does for Mesquite; it’s how she does things that makes her contributions so effective.”

From the beginning of her employment with Greg Lee, CEO of the Eureka Casino Resort and Carrier, she has viewed her work as more than just a job because her employers endeavor to make their business the best place to work, and find the best possible people to work there. She explained that the Lee Family established their business on the core values of serving their guests, the community, and one another with care, compassion, and dedication.

Chasko incorporated those principles into her management of the Eureka Community Initiative, the charitable arm of the company, when she assumed leadership of newly-formed ECI in 2012.

ECI is fertile ground for innovation of great, fun ideas that have benefited the community and the resort. Chasko and the Eureka initiated “Shreek-Reeka” to safely entertain kids during Halloween week. Nonprofit organizations staff game booths in the casino parking lot while the Eureka staff turns the Grand Canyon Ballroom into a spooky haunted house for parents and kids. This strategy allows local charities to cooperate with each other and earn money for their own cause while working with the Eureka to build a community event.

Chasko believes in collaborative efforts where everyone comes out winners. Maggie Calhoun, a volunteer in several organizations, says, “One of her traits I appreciate the most is Gerri’s wide-angle viewpoint. She encompasses Mesquite as a whole, as an entire community of worthwhile people with both needs and talents. I love working with her.”

In 2014, a significant idea was brought to Chasko and ECI. She was approached by Virgin Valley Elementary School to assist with a reading program for kids who were reading under grade level. This struck a chord. Chasko went to work soliciting matching funds in the community to supplement ECI’s support of Mesquite Reads. Chasko and Carrier became the faces of this community effort that now heads into its sixth summer, serving all three elementary schools in the valley. Chasko and her helpers can be found serving spaghetti lunch to the students every Thursday, keeping the kids happily well fed while they improve their reading skills during the six-week course.

Chasko has since coordinated support for a brand-new culinary course at Virgin Valley High School, a natural fit for Mesquite’s hospitality industry. The Eureka, under Chasko’s watch, subsidized the outfitting of the culinary classroom and the hiring of a top-level chef for the program. The students are always pleased to show off their skills and are building a resume for real-world work.

The list of ways Chasko has found to support local schools both financially and leading by example is too long to recount. She and her husband Bob have established a “Little Sprouts” nutrition garden at the elementary school. Last summer she organized a hospitality internship that paid high school students to learn skills in hotel operations. Six of the interns have since been hired by the Eureka Hotel.

When the Rising Star needed new picnic benches last spring, she enlisted VVHS instructor Jon Felix and his students to build 11 tables as a bonus project, with the earnings going toward supplies for the school woodworking shop. Students and parents celebrated the new tables at a picnic lunch with Chasko at the Rising Star patio.

Chasko’s love of the arts shows in her support of all aspects of Mesquite cultural life. She makes sure ECI sponsors yearly exhibitions at the Mesquite Fine Arts Galley. She initiated “vendor villages” and weekly Pasta Nights at the Eureka Town Square buffet that give nonprofits an opportunity to earn a share of the evening proceeds in that dining room.  Veteran’s groups,

We Care for Animals, and many other diverse nonprofits benefit from their inclusion in the

ECI circle.

Wisely shepherding ECI funds, Chasko readily purchases advertising or a table at a charity event. She offers Eureka and Rising Star ballrooms as venues for meetings, fundraiser events and seminars worthwhile to businesses and nonprofits. The community now recognizes her for the essential role she plays in giving effective support to her city.  And that support is always served up with a smile.