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Poker-themed event latest way to aid Housing Authority

The Grundy County Housing Authority is asking for community members to grab their cowboy hats and boots for a Two-Step Poker Crawl to benefit Saratoga Tower.

This first-of-its-kind event in Morris will be in downtown Morris from 7 to 11 p.m. Oct. 18.

To participate in the poker-themed evening costs $10, said Jennifer Olson, vice president of development for the housing authority.

Tickets can be bought in advance through the GCHA or at the door at the start of the event.

“Grundy County is so good to us in general, so we wanted to do something where we could give back to the downtown,” she said.

The Two-Step Poker Crawl includes seven “saloons”: Red Cent, Chapin’s, Ebbey George’s, The Sandlot, Griffin’s Pint, KJ McKeon’s and Clayton’s Tap.

Those who participate will receive a card at each location and, at the end of the crawl, whoever has the best poker hand and the worst poker hand will each win a prize – for the best hand, $200, and the worst hand, $100.

“You don’t even have to know how to play poker,” Olson said.

Each of the locations will have their own specials going on and GCHA staff will have fun challenges for the cowboys playing in the poker crawl, Olson said.

Participants can attend all the locations or only some, and can spend as much time as they like at each, as long as they start at Red Cent at 7 p.m. and end at Clayton’s at 11 p.m.

As long as they hit five of the locations to get five cards, they are eligible for the prizes.

“We think this is the first poker crawl, so we want this to be an annual event,” Olson said.

Participants are encouraged to wear their country outfits for the crawl and the night will end with a country band at Clayton’s Tap.

T-shirts are available for the event for $15, but need to be preordered online at

The T-shirts will list all of the event’s sponsors on the back. Sponsorship opportunities are available through Oct. 1 for $100.

“We really hope we get a huge turnout and it gets bigger every year,” Olson said.

The proceeds from the event will go toward a new hot water storage tank for Saratoga Tower, Brent Newman, GCHA CEO, said.

The unit is a necessity for the residents to cook, clean and bathe. The current unit is original to the more-than-30-year-old building.

The GCHA provides housing for 160 low-income elderly people and residents with disabilities in three locations in the county.

Rent for the housing is decided based on the income of each resident.

“I think we have enjoyed some really amazing support,” Newman said. “We are so happy people believe in what we are doing and genuinely want to help.”

The housing authority has been offering new fundraising opportunities for individuals and businesses to help the organization.

It has started multiple programs from monthly donations to spending afternoons with residents.

One program is the “Sponsor a Resident” program, which allows for an individual or business to provide a monthly donation to help with needs of residents. The monthly donation depends on the sponsor.

Some businesses in town have also sponsored events for the residents, such as ice cream socials. And others have taken part in the “Home Makers Program,” where a person, business or group provides $500 to $1,000 and volunteers to rehab a vacant apartment.

Last year, AkzoNobel employees replaced the tower’s carpet, and the year before that, they painted portions of the facility.

Currently “D” Construction, the city of Morris, Grundy County and numerous other donors have paid for the construction of a new parking lot for Saratoga Tower.

Because of these donors there is no cost to the GCHA, Olson said.

The lot will serve not only the residents, but members of the community who visit the tower for Community Nutrition Network meals and programs, Olson said.

The lot will be completed by the end of this month.

To sponsor the Two-Step Poker Crawl or for information on the GCHA’s donation opportunities visit or call Jennifer Olson at 815-600-2907.

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