15 November 2013

Opportunity Knocks...

Earlier this week, I got to play poker with my dad and the gang in Raleigh. Now I’m in Las Vegas on business and there may be a little poker on the menu after my work is done, although it’s hard to find a table with stakes I can afford, especially in Las Vegas on a Friday night. 

That’s another thing I love about playing with my father and his buddies. The absolute most you can lose is $17. It’s hardly high-stakes gaming, but you wouldn’t know that from how seriously everyone takes it. We deliberate over each hand and whether to go high or low as if much more were at stake and that’s part of the fun. Everyone’s a good sport though, and even if you go home empty handed, as I did this week, you’re still guaranteed a fun evening. 

Plus in Raleigh, we play crazy made-up versions of games with wild cards and other odd rules that make Texas Hold’em too tame. 

Because of some of my writing assignments, I’ve been learning a lot more about Las Vegas and about casinos and gaming. And I know if I were smart, I wouldn’t be gambling at all. 

Las Vegas is still recovering from the recession at a rate slower than many other cities and its some of its neediest are about to take another hit. 

Because of changes in Medicaid regulations, a number of Las Vegas non-profits (and I would imagine outside of Las Vegas as well) are facing huge federal funding cuts. 

For example, Opportunity Village, a wonderful Las Vegas organization that provides jobs and training for 200 people who have brain injuries, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, and other conditions, will lose nearly two-thirds of its funding Jan. 1. Among the work Opportunity Village trainees do is package playing cards and other items for casinos and hotels, such as coffee services. I may be playing poker with cards assembled by someone from Opportunity Village tonight.  

Having a job “allows them to feel the pride and purpose that come with earning a paycheck,”  Opportunity Village’s executive director Ed Guthrie told the Las Vegas Review Journal. “They can go to work like everyone else, and see their friends on the job. They need someone to provide them with support and supervision. So if they’re not able to come to Opportunity Village, then mom or dad has to leave their job. What does that do to the economy? And what does it do to a family?”

Guthrie’s comments are so wise to me. In the rush to cut the deficit, it seems so many decisions were made without considering the full impact: No action happens in a vacuum. Cut funding to Opportunity Village and it has to cut jobs. Family are then thrown into turmoil because not only does the person employed by Opportunity lose job, she loses the supervision that she needs, so that means either a new provider has to be hired or a family member has to quit his or her job to take care of the person formerly supervised and working at Opportunity Village.  It’s a no win for anyone. 

Today’s $10 goes to Opportunity Village. And here’s hoping that some miracle will happen and the Jan. 1 cuts won’t go into effect. 

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