Discreetly placed in a neighborhood in North Las Vegas is a sanctuary for women and children in need of a safe place.
Behind the walls of the brown building, the sound of construction crews overtakes the pitter-patter of children playing on the floor above.
The crews are working on a much-needed renovation at The Shade Tree, a shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence, abuse, human trafficking, or are facing economic hardship.
“I remember about a year and a half ago I was on a conference call and we were talking about different areas of the building that needed help,” said Karyn Steenkamp, vice president of design and construction for Caesars Entertainment, after walking through the building to tour the progress being made.
On one floor, a group of men in bright orange vests and hard hats put up the outline for a newly designed space that was torn apart to make better use of the building.
Another casino company is working on the first-floor kitchen remodel, Steenkamp explained. Knowing she wanted to help, Steenkamp asked the operations director at The Shade Tree what Caesars Entertainment can do. “The operations director said she was concerned about where they were going to do laundry while they were under construction because the laundry room will be out of service,” said Steenkamp. So, Steenkamp pulled her resources and now, Caesars Entertainment is helping with laundry service until the renovations are complete.
On the second level of The Shade Tree, Steenkamp opened the door to a newly remodeled washroom. “Before the remodel I’ve been told the shower room felt like a prison, in fact, they said some prisons felt nicer,” said Steenkamp. “If you think about it when you start your day it sets the tone for the rest of the day, so having to get ready in this big gray box really had no positivity.”
More than 100 women are at the shelter during any given time, Steenkamp said as she reflected on the work being done. “The beauty of redoing the second floor is it creates a larger capacity, so the shelter can occupy 300 or more people. The kitchen is key to ensuring we can feed everyone properly,” she said.
Steenkamp, who has been with Caesars Entertainment for the past 13 years in the design and construction team, has the experience to help support a strong, healthy building for The Shade Tree. She’s found contractors willing to give back to the shelter, partnered with other properties, oversaw a friendly competition with her own team to gather donations, and helped gather and donate materials from Caesars Entertainment such as linens.
“At the end of the day all of these contractors and casinos that compete with each other were able to come together and make this possible,” said Steenkamp. “It wasn’t just one person, one casino, or one company, it was the coming together of an entire community.”
Steenkamp said the feedback she has received so far has been positive.
“They have a nicer space and because it is a nicer space there is more respect for it. The overall mood of the residents has changed. We take for granted that everyday surroundings can make or break your attitude.”