As part of Tioga Downs Casino and Resort’s commitment to supporting community non-profits, the casino, along with owner Jeff Gural, gave out $510,309 in funding to 39 non-profit organizations from throughout the area Friday night at Tioga Downs, located in Nichols, N.Y. The money, awarded through Tioga Downs’ Regional Community Foundation, constitutes the second of two $500,000 check presentations for 2019, which is when the applications were made.
“I think it’s important to give back to the community, without the support of the people living here we wouldn’t live here. It was a big risk opening a casino in Nichols, the middle of nowhere, and my mother was from Binghamton and I have been very fortunate in life and I believe strongly in giving back, especially when you are in an area that needs all the help it can get,” Gural said.
Gural added he likes to give money away and, unlike others in his position, is happy to do it.
“To be honest, for a country this wealthy to have people going to sleep hungry and veterans don’t have a roof over their heads is ridiculous, but that’s the country we live in. Hopefully that changes some day,” Gural said.
In order to qualify for funding through the Foundation, applicants had to be a charitable, religious, literary, scientific or educational groups operating in Broome, Tioga, Chemung or Bradford counties.
“This grant will be instrumental for us, especially for upgrading (the equipment) we use. Tioga Downs has always been a great supporter of public safety and we are thankful they are here and able to support our organization,” said Derrick Hall, chief of Greater Valley EMS based out of Sayre.
Nancy Eckstrom, coordinator for the summer lunchbox program for Broome Tioga BOCES said that the program, which provides food for children during the summer months, could not exist without help from Tioga Downs.
“It’s the difference to do this or not,” Eckstrom said.
Kathleen Groover, treasurer for Friends of Broome County Public Library, said her organization got roughly $25,000 to improve handicap accessibility.
“It’s going to go a long way for us. It’s phenomenal, you don’t get $25,000 for an organization our size normally and Tioga Downs made it so easy for us. They are great to work with,” Groover said.
Roseann Cole, executive director for the Tioga Downs Community Association, said that it is heartening to know how much the money means to local community organizations.
“It means a ton, it’s probably the one foundation that gives out the biggest total amounts in the area,” said Cole.
Cole added that Tioga Downs donates the money to the Community Association, who then goes through the application process with local non-profits and determines how much of a requested amount they receive. Amounts donated to community organizations varied from $8,000 to $40,000.
Recipients of grants included the First Baptist Church of Owego, North Central Sight Services, Camp Ahwaga Association Inc., Western Broome Meals on Wheels, Penn-York Valley Habitat for Humanity, All Saints Episcopal Church, the Campville Fire Department, Chemung County Humane Society and SPCA Inc., Tioga Central School, North Barton Grange #45, Trinity Episcopal Church, Bradford County Action, Inc., Special Olympics Pennsylvania – Bradford / Sullivan, Broome Tioga BOCES, Greater Valley EMS, Broome County Gang Prevention Inc., Waverly Recreation Booster Club, Tioga County Open Door Mission, Fenton Free Library Association, Bradford County Regional Arts Council, Economic Opportunity Program Inc. of Chemung, SEEDs of Hope Binghamton Inc., LeRoy Heritage Museum Inc., Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments Inc., Tioga Opportunities – Project Neighbor of Newark Valley, Catholic Schools of Broome County, Endicott Performing Arts Center, Broome County Humane Society and Relief Association, Secure Rehabilitation and Vocational Enterprises Inc., Berkshire Free Library, Friends of Broome County Public Library, Salvation Army of Binghamton, Danielle’s House, Police Athletic League of Binghamton, the Discovery Center of the Southern Tier, Junior Achievement of Central Upstate New York, and Goodwill Theatre Inc.