weather icon Clear

Children’s Service Guild of Las Vegas helps kids be kids

Updated May 20, 2019 - 5:35 pm

Vegas Voices is a weekly series highlighting notable Las Vegans.

The tables and counters at the Children’s Service Guild’s office are piled high with craft supplies.

Shelves of ribbons, ornaments and sequins nearly reach the ceilings. At a workstation at the back of the room, unseasonably festive Christmas wreaths finish drying from a recent hot glue-gunning.

“We have more craft supplies than Michael’s!” Elise Rigatuso says. “But I’m not one for crafting.”

As executive board member and historian of the guild, she too invests hundreds, if not thousands of hours throughout the year creating.

Rather than designing the Christmas bells and teddy bears that will be sold at the annual Christmas fundraiser, she compiles volumes of photos and stories that detail the many ways the volunteer-led nonprofit has helped children touched by the family court or juvenile justice systems in Clark County each year.

As Rigatuso thumbs through an album, she pauses at pictures of Easter and Christmas parties, foster children reuniting with siblings at Camp to Belong and teenage boys building trails at the Spring Mountain Youth Camp.

“A lot of these kids just don’t get a fair shake at life,” Rigatuso says. “We step in where the county hasn’t budgeted to give these kids safety and love and whatever they may need.”

While walking through the Child Haven campus where the guild’s office is located, she pauses to wave to children who are making their way to the playground.

“A lot of kids are brought here in the middle of the night,” Rigatuso says. “They’re scared. We give them pajamas and a bed in one of the cottages and safe place to live and play until another relative can pick them up or a parent is able to pick them up again.”

In addition to supporting Child Haven, the Guild provides children in foster care with clothing and food. For holidays, they provide funds for an Easter egg hunt and baskets of Thanksgiving dinner for hundreds of families. And they donate work boots to the boys at the Youth Camp.

Rigatuso has been with the Guild since 2011. In two weeks, the Guild will celebrate its 50th anniversary. And for every event, meeting and family meet-up, Rigatuso is there to take pictures.

“When I worked for a paycheck, I worked real hard,” Rigatuso says. “Now I don’t get a paycheck and I work even harder.”

Why did you get involved with the Children’s Service Guild?

I had worked at the same place for 27 years and it closed. My husband said, “Why don’t you take some time off?” I’d worked since I was 16 and thought, “This is pretty cool.” So a couple months go by and I got antsy. In November, I went to the annual Holiday Craft Boutique and Raffle. Before I went, I prayed and said I was at a crossroads, where am I going? I walked in there and I knew. I knew this was my calling, to work with children and do what we do because it’s so important.

Has your family experienced foster care?

My father’s father had five children. And he died young, at 32. Their mother worked cleaning houses, doing whatever she could do to support five kids. Child Protective Services came in and took them all away and put them all in foster (homes). They were separated for three-four years. From stories my aunt has told me, that’s how I know about foster care. It’s a lot better now.

How can people in the Las Vegas community better support children?

Join Children’s Service Guild, donate to Children’s Service Guild. There are so many ways to be involved. People can volunteer at Child Haven. Staff are paid by county, but lots of people volunteer. Or become a foster parent. If people would stop and think and realize what these kids are going through, whether in the juvenile justice system or family court system, they’d see these kids need help. They just need help. Everyone needs to help. We’re not here to just wallow through life. We’re here for each other. To help each other.

The guild is coming up on its 50th anniversary in a couple of weeks. Do you have a memorable moment from your work with the Guild?

My mom used to always cut out Christmas cookies and we kids would decorate them. With the guild, I joined in November. So for the first Christmas party, I thought, “What’s a Christmas party without cookies?” We had the kids cut out cookies and decorate them. And it was so fun. Their faces were covered with frosting, sprinkles are flying. One kid says to me, “I’ve never done this before. Wow, this is so cool.” They write thank-you notes and say “thank you so much because this is the best thing ever.” They never got to do things like that, and it’s just a normal kid thing.

How did you get into photography?

I started when I was 18. I was in Michigan and didn’t have any experience, but one man hired me and trained me and had me photograph kids. Then I went to school for it when I got to Las Vegas and had a mobile studio where I did portraits of pets and their people. It was a fun job.

Contact Janna Karel at jkarel@review-journal.com. Follow @jannainprogress on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Making Bread Pudding French Toast at Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas
James Trees, chef/owner of Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas, slices house-made blueberry bread pudding, coats it in egg yolks and mascarpone, fries it and tops it with spiced walnuts, Lyle’s Golden Syrup and creme fraiche. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Celine Dion closes 1,141-show residency on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Hear from Celine Dion about her 16 years on the Las Vegas Strip and what the future has in store for her. (Caesars Entertainment)
Lobster grilled cheese at Big Sur Oyster Bar
The hugely popular lobster grilled cheese at Big Sur Oyster Bar at the South Point in Las Vegas is made with white cheddar and served on sourdough. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
You can dine out with your dog in Las Vegas
Lazy Dog, among Las Vegas restaurants that allow dogs, is probably the most accommodating, with free bowls of water and a doggy menu. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sparrow + Wolf at Vetri Cucina in Las Vegas
Marc Vetri will launch a new collaborative chef series June 18, with a little help from Sparrow + Wolf’s Brian Howard. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 best things to do at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
10 best things to do at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Disneyland - VIDEO
What it's like to ride the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run At Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ada’s opens at Tivoli Village in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Ada’s, from James Trees, owner of Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas’ Arts District, brings Tivoli Village a similar menu of seasonal, artisanal pastas, pizzas — and ice cream. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Nutella French Toast at Cafe Americano in Las Vegas
Harold Norris, executive chef at Cafe Americano at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, coats brioche in cinnamon and chocolate and layers it with Nutella and bananas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gloria Vanderbilt dies; artist, clothing designer was 95

Gloria Vanderbilt, the intrepid heiress, artist and romantic who began her extraordinary life as the “poor little rich girl” of the Great Depression, died Monday at 95.