“It’s amazing to walk up and down sidewalks and see kids running around with smiles on their faces. A few years ago, that wasn’t the case.”
Mike Slanker is talking about Naked City, a struggling community just west of Las Vegas Boulevard where the Strip and Downtown begin to merge. He’s a board member of Casa de Luz, a church and nonprofit resource that’s dedicated to cleaning up the area. “It’s transformed the neighborhood,” he says. “Crime rates are down, human trafficking is down, drug use is down.”
Founded by Chris and Laura Chapel with Pastor Dan Winckler during the recession, the Christian outreach effort began “out of the trunk of their car,” Slanker says, and has grown dramatically ever since.
In addition to regular church services in a small house, Casa de Luz now offers programs for children, neighborhood outreach and a food pantry open twice a week. One of the newer programs is a community garden project. “Volunteers are putting box gardens in apartment complexes to not only help beautify the neighborhood, but also provide fresh vegetables to families.”
Volunteers walk the streets, knowing it’s important to always spread the word in such a transient neighborhood. As a nonprofit, supporters like the Weinsteins are vital. “We didn’t seek them out. They came to us,” Slanker says. “They’re such a generous family and have been for years.”
For more information, visit casadeluzlasvegas.org.