Unsung heroes: Seven everyday people making a difference in others’ lives

Charlie Mootz with James Swanson, 11, and his brother Donald Swanson, 17, inside the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise that he owns in Henderson on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013.

Unsung Heroes

Jeremy Anderson, general manager of Aire Serv, poses with his fiancee, Mical Henderson, and his children Will, 8, and Lucy, 3, at the Ronald McDonald House on Monday, Aug. 5, 2013. The The Ronald McDonald House provides temporary housing for families who travel to Las Vegas to receive critical medical treatment for their children. Launch slideshow »

They use their time off from work to volunteer. They dedicate profits from their businesses to charities and schools. They create programs to better the community.

These are some of the Las Vegas Valley’s unsung heroes, the people who work under the radar to improve the lives of others.

They may not have much time or money to donate, but they go above and beyond to do what they can to help.

    • Charlie Mootz has a simple reason for staying active in Boy Scouts after his children grew up. He wants to shape the future of his community.

      “Scouting helps make leaders of the future,” said Mootz, who has worked with the Boy Scouts of Southern Nevada since 2007 and been a merit badge counselor since 2008.

      When he’s not Scouting, Mootz co-owns and manages six local Dunkin’ Donuts stores.

      “It’s a lot of work, but one of the things that’s great about it is that it gives me flexibility to work with the Scouts,” Mootz said.

      As a merit badge counselor, Mootz helps Scouts earn patches in more than 130 disciplines, such as fire building, archery, business and citizenship.

      “When my stores had to go before planning commissions for approval, I had Scouts with me so that they could see and understand the government process,” he said.

      Mootz has served as an assistant scoutmaster, committee chairman and committee member for the Boy Scouts of Southern Nevada’s Troop 420 for six years. He also is a committee member for the Sporting Clay Shoot, the troop’s largest fundraiser.

      Scouts keep score during the a clay pigeon shoot at the Desert Hills Shooting Club and learn skills to earn shotgun shooting merit badges. The most recent shoot in April raised $125,000.

      Mootz uses the fundraiser to teach Scouts about planning and hard work. He also helps them develop their own fundraisers selling doughnuts from his stores.

      The troop of 40 boys participates in a community service project every month.

    • Kona Ice Las Vegas donates much of its profits to charity.

      Evan Louie came to Las Vegas to make a difference.

      The 37-year-old entrepreneur was living in San Francisco when he lost his wife, Cheryl, to brain cancer. She was 34 when she died in 2008, leaving behind a 1-year-old daughter.

      The loss spurred Louie to seek out a way to give back to the community. He chose to settle in Las Vegas because he had family here.

      He found his opportunity in Kona Ice Las Vegas.

      Part of a national franchise that includes 400 trucks in 42 states, Kona Ice sells snow cones out of tropically designed vehicles that frequent community events, Little League games and carnivals. The trucks typically offer 10 dairy-free flavors of cones and are equipped to serve up to 500 people an hour.

      Kona Ice donates a large portion of its profits to schools, sports leagues and nonprofit groups. The company has raised $11 million nationally since it was founded in 2007.

      In just a year of operation, Louie’s four trucks – he owns two in Las Vegas, one in Henderson and one in Pahrump – have raised more than $4 million for local schools and groups. He has entered into more than 500 partnerships with family entertainment centers, chambers of commerce, retail strip malls and sports leagues.

      “I do this in tribute to my late wife,” Louie said.

    • Vicki Robinson

      Vicki Robinson doesn’t have a lot of time or money.

      As an assistant hotel manager at Planet Hollywood, the 41-year-old Reno native often works long shifts, sometimes clocking in 12 hours a day.

      But that doesn’t stop her from volunteering. It’s an addiction, she said.

      “Some people drink,” Robinson said. “I volunteer.”

      While most workers use time off from their jobs to relax or play, Robinson heads to charity events. She donates blood, collects shoes for the needy, donates to charities such as Opportunity Village and takes part in the South Point’s Polar Plunge every February. She volunteers several times a month.

      Robinson also keeps a jar on her desk, which she uses to collect loose change she and her coworkers find around Planet Hollywood. Robinson donated the jar’s most recent contents – $44 – to Safe Nest, a charity for battered women.

      Though she now volunteers through Caesars Entertainment’s Hero program, which has organized more than 100,000 hours of community service by its employees over the past year, Robinson said her philanthropic roots started during childhood. Robinson’s mother volunteered regularly in her neighborhood.

      “I got it from my mom,” Robinson said. “It’s just awesome that now I can help kids. They really pull at my heartstrings.”

    • Lauran Meyer

      Lauran Meyer joined the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, after watching a colleague and friend succumb to the disease.

      In 1999, her boss, Nevada Power (now NV Energy) President Steve Rigazio, was diagnosed with ALS. He died two years later at 47.

      Rigazio’s death motivated Meyer to become active in ALS of Nevada.

      “These people are so special and so brave,” Meyer said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

      Now retired, Meyer joined the ALS board in 2001. She has worked with the organization ever since.

      While Meyer has spent time with patients and families struggling with the disease – she used to take Rigazio to therapy sessions and breathing treatments – she now works primarily to raise money. She coordinates the annual Steve Rigazio Golf Classic that this year raised $40,000.

      NV Energy has been a generous supporter of the cause. The company has matched employee contributions to raise $80,000 in donations since 2006.

      Caesars Entertainment also is a big donor, contributing a major prize to the golf tournament.

      The money pays for part-time help for the group’s executive director, Megan Testa, and funds monthly ALS clinics. The local group also helps maintain a national ALS registry that consolidates diagnoses to try to find causes for the disease.

      “We do everything with a heart of gold and a shoestring budget,” Meyer said. “We’re very frugal, and we try to make every dollar go further.”

    • When Jeremy Anderson’s son was born eight years ago with Down syndrome and two holes in his heart, the newborn spent 15 days in intensive care.

      Anderson was able to spend every day at the hospital with his son and go home every night.

      Parents at the Ronald McDonald House aren’t so lucky. They live in other cities and states but come to the valley to get treatment for their child. The Ronald McDonald House offers them boarding for little or no cost.

      Anderson, the general manager of Aire Serv, a heating and air conditioning franchise in Henderson, can’t imagine how hard their stays are. That is why he donates dozens of hours and thousands of dollars a year to the Ronald McDonald House.

      Anderson changes the facility’s air filters for free four times a year. He replaced 12 air conditioners at cost for $55,000, a job that typically runs about $135,000. He recruits other contractors to pitch in for free or at cost, and his fiancee, a hair stylist, gives free haircuts to guests.

      He “acts with his heart,” said Alyson McCarthy, executive director of the facility.

      Anderson began volunteering for the Ronald McDonald House in March 2011. He learned about the group through Aire Serv’s parent company, the Dwyer Group, which donates to the charity every year.

      He quickly discovered that staff members didn’t know how to change air filters properly.

      “It escalated from there,” Anderson said.

    • Galit Rozen

      A decade ago, Galit Rozen didn’t know anything about Shade Tree, a North Las Vegas shelter for women and children.

      Today, she is one of the nonprofit’s leading volunteers.

      A commercial real estate broker, Rozen started a back-to-school event every August that provides backpacks, school supplies and uniforms to children staying at the center.

      She also created a holiday shopping event, letting children choose three or four donated gifts for their mothers, along with wrapping paper and cards. Rozen launched a similar event for Mother’s Day.

      “She’s just an amazing lady,” said Marlene Richter, executive director of Shade Tree.

      Rozen, who co-owns Commercial Professionals, said she is drawn to the group because she is a mother of three and her heart breaks for struggling families.

      Many women at Shade Tree are victims of domestic violence. Others are homeless. Some are drug addicts.

      All need help getting back on their feet.

      “I truly believe a lot of these women are victims of circumstance,” Rozen said.

    • Cameron Cheal

      Cameron Cheal works for a bank but regularly finds himself on the front line of car wrecks, fires and other crises.

      Cheal, a private banker with Bank of America, volunteers about 100 hours a month to the Trauma Intervention Program of Southern Nevada, which sends volunteers to crime scenes, accidents, fires and other emergencies to help family members, witnesses and bystanders cope.

      “This is giving back at a basic human level,” Cheal said. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor or if you even speak the same language, it’s important to have somebody to be there with you when a tragedy occurs.”

      “We’re not doctors or psychologists, but we’re there to provide emotional and practical support to the survivors of tragedy,” Cheal added.

      Volunteers arrange for shelter, food, clothing and transportation for victims, notify family and friends, coordinate with authorities and make referrals to social services agencies.

      Cheal has worked with TIP for two years and already has increased his hours.

      Last year, he was named Bank of America’s Volunteer of the Year and won a $1,000 donation for TIP.

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