SCHENECTADY -- Two weeks before its grand opening, Rivers Casino & Resort is already making its presence felt in the city.
The casino is partnering with Schenectady ARC’s bottle redemption program to save about five part-time jobs filled by individuals with disabilities, the organizations announced Thursday. The casino, which anticipates using close to 50,000 water bottles per month, will send those bottles to the Pine Ridge Industries Bottle Redemption Center, which is housed within the ARC facility at 52 Market St. in Scotia.
The facility has housed a commercial redemption center since 2011 and, as a result, employed four to six people at any given time. However, thin profit margins and a large space requirement made the business difficult to maintain.
The organization was set to shutter the bottle redemption operation in the first half of this year, but after a December meeting with casino officials, the entities established a partnership to keep the service alive. As a result, Schenectady ARC can maintain four or five part-time jobs associated with the redemption program.
“The more work we have here, the more people we can employ and the more opportunity we can give to people,” said Kirk Lewis, executive director at Schenectady ARC. “So, it’s a great win for us, a great benefit.”
Schenectady ARC was founded in 1952 and provides support to individuals and families with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The organization provides employment and social opportunities and is a way for its people to get into the community, Lewis said.
The Pine Ridge redemption center will remain economically feasible thanks to the partnership with Rivers. Workers will help collect bottles from the casino, then sort them at the Market Street facility. If containers are properly sorted, they are valued at 8.5 cents each when an outside collection company takes them from the ARC facility.
Pine Ridge will receive 7.5 cents per bottle, while the casino will take 1 cent per container, per the agreement between the two. That ratio is expected to result in about $3,600 of monthly revenue for Pine Ridge.
A collection bus will travel to the casino twice a week to gather water bottles and, possibly, beer and soda bottles as well, officials said.
Scott Clay, director of community relations for Rivers Casino & Resort, said part of the company’s mantra involves being active in the community. Rivers was looking for something centered around employment opportunities and decided the bottle redemption service aligned with its goals, Clay said.
The casino will look to partner with other local organizations moving forward, Clay added.
“We are Rivers Casino Schenectady. That’s our identity; that’s not just branding,” Clay said. “We’re putting down roots within the community.”
Rivers Casino will open on the Mohawk Harbor development site at noon on Feb. 8.