Laura LeMere Receives the Sustain Dane Live Forward
The Big Sky of Giving
Laura LeMere is the environmental services manager at Ho-Chunk
asking me if I wanted to join his team. He pretty much said that he knew talent when he spotted it. I had to think about it because I’ve never done this type of work.
Although I was in management up in the Dells, I wasn’t running my own department. And so, I was a little bit nervous. I just did what I could and I guess I’ve been
doing something right because Dan is still pleased with my performance.”
LeMere is the environmental services manager who takes great pride in the work that she and her team perform, especially in the COVID-19 era.
“I basically run the environmental services department, making sure that the facility is clean and healthy and safe as I can make it for our employees and guests,”
LeMere emphasized. “COVID-19 really changed everything. We had to initiate a lot of different protocols and products into our daily practices to make sure that we
are being as healthy, clean and safe as possible for precautions and everything. Keeping it a fun experience has its challenges. We have a pretty good crew here in
Madison with all of the departments. We really came together to work diligently that while our guests are being kept as safe as we can possibly make them that the
experience wasn’t taken completely away from them in the process. It’s a challenge to achieve, but we have a pretty good team here at Ho Chunk Gaming Madison. I
think we are doing as good of a job as we can.”
Brown encourages his staff to be civic-minded. And LeMere takes a broad perspective on her work, going above and beyond the call of duty. And that is where her
community engagement came into play.
LeMere and her staff end up picking up little tickets that their guests leave laying around, not seeing much value in them. But LeMere took a big picture approach to
“I reached out to organizations because I wanted to implement this donation program based on these TITO tickets that are kind of left behind by patrons,” LeMere
said. “I’m not sure if you are familiar with TITO tickets, but they are the tickets you get when you cash out from a slot machine. You go and exchange them for your
money. Often times, they are so small that people don’t deem them worthy of cashing out, maybe 2-5 cents. They just leave them by the slot machines and they are
just there. The tickets were essentially going to waste. We were tossing them because some employees can’t even touch them. The tickets were going to waste. I
thought, ‘Why not just collect them and put them to a good cause?’”
Well those small tickets became a lot of money when put together over time.
“We thought, ‘Why not collect those and on a quarterly basis, donate what we collect to local non-profits,” LeMere said. “That’s what I began doing with The Beacon
being the first recipients of that. In less than a year — even with the pandemic — we managed to raise almost $4,000. Those little tickets really add up. And we
donated the money to local non-profits including The Beacon, the VFW Post #7591, Second Harvest and then Madison Alliance. We halted it for now just due to the
pandemic. I do plan on initiating that again to raise funds for more local non-profits.”
LeMere isn’t just satisfied with writing a check and putting it in the mail. For her, seeing is believing.
“The Beacon does some wonderful things for the homeless community,” LeMere emphasized. “I was really blown away when I walked in. I didn’t want to just donate
the money. I wanted to meet the people working there and get a sense of what they are about even though I did my research and knew what they did. I wanted a first-
hand experience of what the people were about. I walked into The Beacon and they gave me a tour. I was blown away by all the services they provide and the level
of passion that they have and commitment that they have to the homeless community. It was really inspiring. I knew within seconds that I wanted them to be the first
organization that we donated to.”
LeMere’s philanthropic initiative caught the eye of Ho-Chunk Gaming’s municipal relations coordinator, Missy Tracy. And Tracy nominated her for a Sustain Dane
Live Forward Award.
“They recognize what they call change makers in the Madison community, people who are getting out there and making positive change for the community, whether
it be for environmental, social justice or economic empowerment, all the things related to sustainability that people are out there doing in various ways,” LeMere
said. “The award was presented during the Sustain Dane Summit. Of course it was virtual. It was different like pretty much everything else is this year. The award
ceremony was set up pretty much like a panel. They did a little bit of Q&A and a little bit of background on us.”
LeMere is loving her time at Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison. While having a steady job with responsibilities, it also allows her to pursue her dreams.
“It sounds corny, but my dream is to go out and change the world, do what I can, do my part anyways,” LeMere emphasized. “That is always my passion. I said this
during the awards ceremony and it might sound a little cheesy. I see a need and I fill it. That’s what keeps me going.”
So the next time you are at Ho-Chunk Gaming and don’t want to bother with the little TITO tickets, don’t think they will go to waste. Laura LeMere will combine them to
help change the world as best she can. And the homeless folks served by The Beacon are glad she does. Just like the TITO tickets, pooling a lot of efforts like
LeMere’s together results in the change that makes a difference in many people’s worlds.
By Jonathan Gramling
Born in Baraboo, Laura LeMere has spent most of her time in Wisconsin with a few
stints in places like Poplar, Montana and other places.
“I lived a short spell out in Poplar, Montana with my older sister,” LeMere said. “Poplar
is quite small. During my time there, I did enjoy the openness and the freedom. It’s very
clear once you get out there why they call it Big Sky Country. It’s not like that here at all.
For most of her adult life, LeMere has been employed by Ho-Chunk Gaming.
“To be perfectly honest, my casino knowledge lies in table games,” LeMere said. “I
spent many years on table games. But I met Dan Brown a little over two years ago
enquiring about something. It was a completely separate issue. He came to me later on