“…a key part of being involved in charity is to pick causes that are important to you.”

Written by Elizabeth Blau

I moved to Las Vegas almost 19 years ago from New York City. While I came west for an extraordinary career opportunity, to work for Steve and Elaine Wynn opening the Bellagio, leaving the East Coast meant leaving pretty much all my family and friends behind to embark on this new journey. As many transplants to new cities have learned, charity can be a wonderful way to get to know a community in the most direct sense.

I think that in Las Vegas, especially in those days, a lot of people looked at it as a transient town and didn’t always seek to establish the types of ties and roots that you see in more established cities. However, I was extraordinarily lucky to have a role model and mentor in Elaine Wynn who not only stressed the importance of getting involved in our community but also, in my mind, set the standard for charitable giving. An amazing cadre of women in our community inspired me to get involved and give back.

For me, a key part of being involved in charity is to pick causes that are important to you. Our community has many incredible organizations that serve the needs of all sorts of groups, but personally, my passion for children and education led me to join the state board of Communities in Schools (led by the indomitable Susie Lee) because it aids at risk youth in our schools. Additionally, given my obvious and ongoing relationship with food, another pillar of our charitable community, Diana Bennett, encouraged my husband, Chef Kim Canteenwalla, and me to assume leadership roles with Three Square Food Bank. Food insecurity is an incredibly important and prevalent issue in our city, and as members of the restaurant industry, we take our mission to feed the community very seriously.

Larry Ruvo inspired the culinary community to join forces with him in his fight against Alzheimer’s, and those efforts helped build the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. As a community, we are so fortunate to have medical resources of this magnitude. Our business partner, Kerry Simon, was diagnosed with his rare disease —MSA — at the clinic and found the caregiving team to be an incredible resource throughout his struggle.

Looking forward to 20 years in Las Vegas, I am incredibly proud of our city’s charitable community. I was lucky to learn early on how important it is to give back and to be involved, and I truly feel that the work of extraordinary business leaders in our community along with thousands of other volunteers, community activists, and charitable supporters, are part of what make this a great city and a great place to live. Living in the United States — and more specifically in Las Vegas — is a privilege; giving back to our community is not just a nice thing to do, it is a responsibility for everyone.