Chamber Casino Night nets Fun, Funds for Scholarships

By David Taylor
North Channel Star

Members and friends of the North Channel Chamber of Commerce let down their hair, changed out of their business duds, and celebrated students at their annual Casino Night last Friday at the Jacinto City Town Center. The night is an opportunity for the business community to support area students with funds for scholarships at the gaming tables. No money is exchanged, but it would be hard to tell by the intense play.

Sponsored by the Chamber Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, the scholarship is named after William C. Palko, who was the Foundation’s board chair for the last three years.

“Tonight’s celebration was themed after movie nights, so a lot of our members came dressed as favorite movie characters,” Palko said.

The former chairman said they switch between academic and vocational scholarships.

“Even within those genres, we rotate between different departments like sociology, law enforcement, accounting, and so on,” he said.

Qualifications for scholarship applicants include graduating from a local high school (Galena Park, North Shore, Channelview, or C. E. King), they must attend San Jacinto College as a full-time student (12 hours) and must meet the academic requirements as well.

“Those are the basic requirements. Last year we had enough money to give a $5,000 and a $2,000 scholarship if we have enough money,” he said.

Palko said last year’s recipient was a graduate from Galena Park High School, was a single mother with a 15-year-old daughter and wanted to take HVAC classes.

“She wants to open her own company because she wants to give back to her community. She told us she was seeing a lot of low income and struggling single mothers getting taken advantage of when they needed air conditioning repair,” he said.

The $2,000 recipient was 30 years old, had finished an eight year hitch in the Army 82nd Airborne and was a full-time employee of Center point.

“They are both graduating this December. They both want to come back to the community and share their talents,” he said. “It’s local money that stays local and benefits the local high school graduates and the community.”

This is the fifth year of the scholarship program.

“Some recipients are directly out of high school while others have been out and working for 10 to 15 years,” said Dr. Allatia Harris, chairman of the Foundation Board.

One year the scholarship went to a Channelview maritime major, another was an engineering student from North Shore, HVAC students from Galena Park, and Harris pointed out that the money is spread around to students across the area.

“We also get to meet some amazing young people from our community in the process,” she said.

Chamber president and CEO Margie Buentello also added that the money is well-spent.

“Not one penny goes to the chamber, staff, or anything else. One hundred percent of the money goes into the Foundation to fund the scholarships,” she said.

Didn’t make the casino party but would still like to donate to the scholarship fund? Contact Buentello at the chamber at or by calling 713-450-3600.