Best of 2019 NomineeGiving Back

MGM Resorts delivers 700 lunches to TSA workers

Rise and shine — it’s time for lunch.

Perhaps that’s out of sequence, but a morning delivery of midday nourishment was embraced nonetheless on Jan. 25. That’s when chefs from Mandalay Bay/MGM Resorts International motored up to the ticketing curb at McCarran International Airport to unload 350 boxed lunches, with another 350 scheduled for afternoon delivery.

Their intended diners: Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers toiling without pay in the midst of the partial U.S. government shutdown, which began Dec. 22, 2018 (a temporary reopening of the government was announced on Jan. 25).

Many of those workers are living without a financial cushion to get them through.

“It’s just something that warms the heart and lets them know we appreciate them,” says Holly Lenhart, executive sous chef at Mandalay Bay’s Garde Manger restaurant. (Translation from the French: “Keeper of the Food.”)

Chefs’ mission: Opening their hearts by filling some stomachs. Why? “Family — Vegas Strong,” says Roman Beza, Garde Manger’s executive chef. “It doesn’t matter what company you’re working for, we’re all one family here in Las Vegas.”

Amid a local media scrum, a Mandalay Bay security van delivered a foodie’s delight: roast beef sandwiches on pretzel bread with caramelized onions and bacon jam, bags of kettle chips, chickpea cucumber side salads with Italian dressing, chocolate chip cookies, oranges, candy, canned sodas and water.

“This is our second time, so the first time we sent turkey sandwiches,” says Susan Wolfla, Manadaly Bay’s executive chef. “We thought today we’d give them something different with roast beef. And I asked some of the agents, ‘What do you want if we have to do it again?’ I think we’re going to do a turkey wrap next time. We want to keep surprising them if we can, in a good way.”

What’s not surprising? TSA gratitude. “It actually means a lot,” says Jovan Petkovic, secretary of the American Federation of Government Employees, TSA 1250, which represents TSA employees in Nevada and Arizona. “The Las Vegas airport has had overwhelming support from the airlines and the community. Under normal circumstances, we can all reasonably agree that we’re not liked — like, ‘Oh my God, I have to go through that and they’re going to check my bag.’ But this shows the workers that the community believes in them, that they are appreciated, because this has been very traumatic.”

TSA agents thank Holly Lenhart, left, executive sous chef, for the delivery of box lunches from MGM Resorts International and Mandalay Bay to support local TSA agents who have gone without paychecks due to the partial federal government shutdown at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. (Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau)

More than just bag-checkers, McCarran’s TSA workers are also Las Vegas’ unofficial ambassadors. “They’re the first ones that see our guests and the last ones that see our guests, so we’re appreciative of what they do on a normal day and even more so now,” Wolfla says. “I can’t imagine the sacrifices they have to make every day because of the shutdown.”

And as Lenhart notes, it’s a community bond that has already been proven. “It fills you with a sense of self-worth to be able to give back to the community that supported us through the events of Oct. 1,” she says. “We’re lucky to be part of a company that gives so much back.”

Today, giving back means chowing down. Roast beef on a pretzel hoagie, anyone?

Local businesses show support for TSA workers — See the list of Las Vegas businesses, companies, schools and airlines have donated goods and services to help boost government workers who have been furloughed or are working without pay since the partial U.S. government shutdown began.

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by Steve Bornfeld/Las Vegas Newswire

by Steve Bornfeld/Las Vegas Newswire