PITTSBURG, Kan. — Carrie Stapelkamp grew up in the small town of Cresco, Iowa and lived there for more than three decades before moving in 2008 to Northwood, about 60 miles away, where she worked as a server at the local casino for about a year and a half before switching to a position in the casino’s revenue audit department.
Stapelkamp saw opportunity for further advancement at the casino, but knew she would have to go back to school to get to where she wanted to be.
“So I decided to complete my accounting degree,” she says. “I had an associate’s but I knew to get to the director level that I was going to need to have a bachelor’s degree, so I decided to go back to school full-time. I went online, I worked full-time, I was a full-time mom, full-time wife, and completed that degree in about a year and a half.”
It only took about a week after she finished her bachelor’s degree for the casino to promote her to finance director. Stapelkamp held that position until 2016, when she moved to Pittsburg to take another finance director job, and to help open Kansas Crossing Casino.
“It has been one of the greatest experiences that I’ve been a part of, and proud to be a part of, to see, you know, the people that I’ve hired and other departments have hired and how they’ve grown and developed and how their community has accepted the casino,” she says.
“I think the biggest thing is just seeing the team here growing and the knowledge that they’ve gained, because the majority of the folks that were hired didn’t have casino experience, so not only were we opening, you know, a casino from the ground up, we were also training folks at the same time.”
Not only Carrie, but her husband Eric and their two adult children also live in Pittsburg and work at the casino. Eric is Kansas Crossing’s food and beverage manager, while Carrie’s daughter works as a receiving agent and her son works as a table games dealer. Having the whole family working at the casino keeps them close-knit, Stapelkamp says — which has been important to her, because despite the satisfaction of seeing Kansas Crossing’s success, she has also had her fair share of challenges since moving to Pittsburg.
In July of 2018, Stapelkamp was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I did five months of chemo,” she says. “16 rounds of chemo for five months, and I did that all here in Pittsburg. And then the majority of my surgeries that I had were done at KU in Kansas City, and as of February 18 of 2021 I’ll be cancer-free for two years.”
It is undoubtedly an understatement when Stapelkamp says that beating cancer has been “a life changing experience.” Through it all, though, her family has been there for her.
“They have been my rock,” she says.
Aside from spending time with family — which would include time spent with her husband riding their Harley — Stapelkamp enjoys activities such as diamond painting, described on one diamond painting enthusiast website as “a new craft hobby that's a mix between Cross Stitch and Paint By Numbers.” Stapelkamp took up diamond painting about a year and a half ago, she says, and it helps her relax.
She also has a Lhasa Apso dog named Minnie that just turned a year old. Minnie is named after the Minnesota Twins, Stapelkamp says. To the dismay of many of their co-workers, perhaps, the entire Stapelkamp family stays true to their northeast Iowa roots, and roots for the Twins and the Vikings.
This fall, Kansas Crossing’s general manager and human resources director told Stapelkamp that they had submitted her name for consideration as a 2021 Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce Woman of Distinction.
“I honestly didn’t feel or think that I would get a phone call on it,” she says.
It wasn’t the worst thing to be proven wrong about, though, when the call from the Chamber came through.
“I was very honored, surprised and happy,” Stapelkamp says.