Jim Lye (left) along with Nate Place (middle), and Ben Laudick share a laugh at the roulette table at the YWCA’s Casino Night. (Sam Shriver/DHI Media)
Jim Lye (left) along with Nate Place (middle), and Ben Laudick share a laugh at the roulette table at the YWCA’s Casino Night. (Sam Shriver/DHI Media)

Times Bulletin reporter

VAN WERT — The YWCA of Van Wert held its first-ever Casino Night at Willow Bend Country Club, Friday night.

“For years it was always a Festival of Trees event for the YWCA to raise money for the organization, then it kind of slowly changed into what we kind of did was a toast to the YWCA but still incorporate the trees, silent auctions and live auctions in that aspect,” said Kimberly Laudick, president and CEO of the YWCA of Van Wert.

Then COVID hit.

“We did an online auction just knowing we still needed that income coming in and knowing that it was important for the organization. So we did that for the last two years,” Laudick said.

The organization was hoping to raise $60,000 from Casino Night through admission to the event itself and the sponsors that help out.

More than 100 people turned out for Casino Night.

“We have Blackjack, poker, and roulette tables along with having SINGO and stuff like that so I think it’s a good number to have here tonight,” Laudick said.

It is, by far, their biggest fundraiser of the year.

“It’s something that we definitely work hard for…all hands on deck…my board of directors, they do an amazing job with getting donations within the community…the staff with putting things together and just setting up and everything. Without this event, especially through the last couple of years with a lot of our funding on grants being cut, that’s huge,” Laudick said.

The mission at the YWCA of Van Wert continues to change and evolve.

“Our mission at the YWCA is to eliminate racism, empowering women, which is, you know, it’s a bold mission, right? I’m not going to sugarcoat that. It is a bold mission and it’s hard. We do a lot of the hard work for people that need it…our shelter with domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. It’s happening in Van Wert County. We are still serving a lot of people. We see that through the holidays, those numbers are going up,” Laudick said.

Laudick says with the support of the community, board of directors, and staff, they can achieve their mission for the Van Wert community.

“I have a great board of directors. They’re very supportive. They work hard and support what we do every day and that’s huge and they do the work that’s important. They’re [the staff] the ones day in and day out that are serving those people and running those programs that make that possible. So, you know I said I’m blessed to have a great staff and the community that definitely supports us is huge, too,” Laudick said.