Grand Casino Mille Lacs lends helping hand

Grand Casino Mille Lacs Associates teamed up with Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity to complete its 100th build through the casino's 11th annual Lend a Hand program.

Grand Casino Mille Lacs Associates teamed up with Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity to complete its 100th build through the casino's 11th annual Lend a Hand program.

The two-bedroom, one-bath, fully accessible home with 1.5-car garage was built for Heather Aanes, a single mother of two who has multiple sclerosis. As part of the organization's 25th anniversary, Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity dedicated the build in memory of Paul Mans, co-founder of the organization.

In 1990, Mans founded Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity, alongside Sister Vivian Arts and Pastor Paul LeDuc. Since the program's inception, more than 400 families have been given safe and affordable places to call home.

Mans joined the Grand Casino team in 1991 where he played a key role in developing the food & beverage and hospitality operations. After his retirement, Mans worked an additional two years for the Corporate Commission of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, now known as Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures; his dedicated time and efforts were a great contribution to the growing organization.

Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures also donated $5,000 to Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity in honor of Mans to help complete this build.


"Paul was one of those people who made an indelible mark on everyone he worked with, and his contributions to Grand Casino Mille Lacs are still evident today," Tracy Sam, general manager of Grand Casino Mille Lacs, said in a release. "Our team was especially proud to be able to partner with Lakes Area Habitat on this particular build to honor Paul's memory and lifetime of service to others."

The Lend a Hand program, now in its 11th year, annually awards one-day home makeovers to individuals who meet criteria based on income, physical limitations, medical issues and other challenges. A committee of Grand Casino Associates interviewed five nominees for the program and selected Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity's 100th build in honor of Mans' and Aanes' story.

Grand Casino contacted Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Kevin Pelkey to determine specific project needs. He suggested their greatest need of help was to sheetrock, tape, sand and finish the two-bedroom, one-bath home as well as complete the home with landscaping This resulted in the first-ever, two-day Lend a Hand makeover.

On Wednesday, Aug. 19, a crew of seventeen rocked, taped, sanded and finished the interior of the home and garage. Then, on Thursday, Sept. 24, a full crew returned to not only landscape her yard, but make sure it was as safe as possible.

"This was an exciting project for us," Mike Nickaboine, vice president of facilities for Grand Casino Mille Lacs, said. "Not only do you have a deserving recipient - like Heather and her girls, but you have a wonderful organization who continuously gives back to the Brainerd community. We are humbled and honored to help out."

In honor of Mans, the casino catered lunch for all volunteers on both days.

"Paul was a special member of the Grand Casino family who was synonymous with excellence in food and beverage," Mike Engel, corporate vice president of food and beverage for Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, said. "It's only fitting that we celebrate this commemorative building project with food from the food and beverage operations he helped build."

The casino received valuable assistance and donations from Sherwin Williams in Baxter, Landsburg Landscape Nursery in Brainerd and Grand Casino Mille Lacs' own facilities, food and beverage and marketing departments.


The Lend a Hand program was developed by the casino's facilities department as a way to give back to the community. The committee receives nominations from Grand Casino Mille Lacs Associates, interviews the nominees, and selects the home makeover recipients. This is the program's 11th year.

Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley, which are owned by Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, are two of Minnesota's premier entertainment facilities, offering gaming, accommodations, dining, conference and banquet facilities and live entertainment.

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