Pechanga honored by American Fundraising Professionals as Community Champion of the Year

Catalina Chacon of the Pechanga Tribal Council and Heather Holmes, the community relations director, accept the award for Community Champion of the Year at the American Fundraising Professionals Inland Empire chapter’s celebration of National Philanthropy Day. The event was held Nov. 15, at the Mission Inn Hotel in Riverside. Paul Bandong photo

The Inland Empire chapter of American Fundraising Professionals joined more than 100 other chapters nationwide in celebrating National Philanthropy Day, Nov. 15, at Mission Inn Hotel in Riverside.

The annual event began in 1986, founded by President Ronald Reagan to recognize the endless contributions given by numerous organizations involved in countless missions and causes.

Pechanga Resort & Casino was honored as Community Champion of the Year. They were nominated by Jill Eaton and Susan G. Komen Inland Empire. The group has been supporting “Race for the Cure” since 2002 and has raised over $500,000 to date. Pechanga has fielded more than 300 team members on over 50 teams each of the past two years.

“Our people know all too well what it’s like to fall on tough times,” Catalina Chacon of the Pechanga Tribal Council said. “That’s why a deeply held value of ours is to help people in need. That value, that guiding principle is also shared by many of our employees. With them we’ve been able to do so much for the community.”

Other honorees include David Colwell as Professional of the Year, Purple Hearts as Volunteer Group of the Year, Kristin Torres as Volunteer of the Year, Frank and Mary Ann Xavier as Philanthropists of the Year, The Toro Company as Business of the Year and Wells Fargo Foundation as Foundation of the Year.

Nine-year old Ulysses Hsu, the Youth Volunteer of the Year, was particularly inspirational, having begun his philanthropic efforts at four years old by asking friends and family to not give him birthday gifts but to instead donate funds to a cause. Most recently, he raised over $1,600 for Loma Linda’s University Health’s Vision 2020 campaign to build new Adult and Children’s Hospital towers. He was inspired by a friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer.

“Writing a check is not hard,” Chacon said. “The real hard work is in the day-to-day struggles to provide vital services such as sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, tutoring underserved children and so much more. I know I speak for our tribe and our 4,500 employees when I say ‘thank you for all you do.’”

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