NICHOLS, N.Y. - On Dec. 20, four area organizations benefited from the generosity of Tioga Downs and Jeff Gural, owner of Tioga Downs Casino in Nichols, N.Y. and CEO of American Racing and Entertainment, LLC. In true Christmas spirit, Gural, in a presentation held at the Nichols, N.Y. casino, presented close to $200,000 in checks to the Southern Tier Food Bank, The Goodwill Theater, the Southern Tier Veterans Support Group, and the Tioga County Senior Citizens Foundation.

The checks, according to Linn Redder, director of marketing at Tioga Downs, represent a small portion of their community support, in conjunction with personal donations from Gural. According to Redder, over $900,000 has gone back into the local Southern Tier community over the years. In total, she added, American Racing and Entertainment, which includes Tioga Downs and its sister facility Vernon Downs Casino and Hotel, combined with personal funds from Gural, have donated over $1.4 million dollars.

On Friday, Gural was personally recognized by the American Red Cross for this generosity, and his support of the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Red Cross Community Executive for the Southern Tier Chapter, Shelley Bierwiller, was present on Friday to deliver a plaque to Gural, and personally thank him for his support.

"Mister Gural has been extremely helpful in our efforts to aid area victims of disasters like Hurricane Sandy," said Bierwiller." She noted that Gural recently offered a donation of $50,000 to assist flood victims in Mohawk Valley in July. "These donations make a difference to so many people who are struggling to put their lives back together," Bierwiller added, "and victims of Hurricane Sandy are still rebuilding."

Also present on Friday was Natasha Thompson, president and CEO of the Southern Tier Food Bank. Thompson first received checks in the amount of $60,000, with a portion coming from the Southern Tier Horsemen's Association, and another portion from Tioga Downs. In addition, Gural presented Thompson a personal check in the amount of $20,000 to help combat hunger in the region.

"I think we all agree that no one should go to bed hungry," said Gural.

Thompson, who was extremely grateful for the donations, described the generosity of their [Tioga Downs] efforts as transformational. "These funds help so many," said Thompson.

Naima Kradjian, of the Goodwill Theater, arrived at the casino on Friday to receive a check for $15,000 from Gural. "We are so appreciative of this support," said Kradjian during the presentation.

She added, "We are all about supporting and educating children about the arts. We wouldn't be able to offer classes without their support." The Goodwill Theater, located on Broad Street in Johnson City, works through its training academy to enrich the lives of residents and visitors. Jeff Gural extended a special thanks to Senator Tom Libous for introducing them to the Goodwill Theater.

Also receiving a donation on Friday was Ralph Kelsey and Dave Ostrander of the Tioga County Senior Citizens Foundation. The foundation received a check for $10,000 from Tioga Downs, which was presented by Gural. "We appreciate what Jeff Gural does for Tioga County," said Kelsey.

Arriving on Friday, and receiving the largest donation, was the Southern Tier Veterans Support Group (STVSG). "There are a tremendous number of needs out there," said Ben Margolius, vice president of the STVSG. On Friday, they received $80,600 from Tioga Downs.

Margolius talked of the need that veterans have, and became choked up when he talked about the gift cards he recently delivered to veterans in the seven southern tier counties and two northern tier counties they serve.

"We have reached out and touched so many," Margolius added, "and there's great meaning in receiving these funds from Jeff Gural."

Jeff Gural also spoke of his support to veterans, stating, "We owe a tremendous amount to our veterans, and I promise this donation will be over one hundred thousand next year."

Since the opening of Tioga Downs Casino, it has been a top priority for Gural to give back to the surrounding communities. This was achieved by building strong relationships with charitable organizations and reaching high volumes of revenue that was then funneled back in the form of educational aid.

For more information about Tioga Downs Casino, go to www.tiogadowns.com, or visit them on Facebook.