It’s not as impressive as a new racetrack or casino, but the Elmira Lions Club is hoping the introduction of bingo will help boost their revenues and provide area residents with an extra night of fun each Thursday. For $18 gamers get a book of 11 bingo cards and the option to buy more for $1 each, and prizes range from $20 all the way up to $500 with a total of about $1,700 given out each evening.
“This is brand new in Elmira here; we’ve never done it before,” said club member Bert Martin, who co-chairs the committee with his son Rod.
The club can accommodate up to 150 players per night and the game is tracked using an electronic board that is visible for everyone playing. They had 65 players out the first night and 58 the second, and hope that with a little more exposure and some more word-of-mouth, it will become a popular draw.
Their first bingo night came on Sept. 15 and another a week later on the 22nd. The next game night is slated for Oct. 6, followed by Oct. 13. The club couldn’t have a game this past week because they share the Lions Hall space with the Elmira blood donor clinic.
The club came up with the idea after Rod, who had spent a year teaching in the northern Ontario community of Nakina, saw firsthand how successful the game could be as a fundraiser and a way to engage the community.
The club decided to adopt the idea here, and will be running games every Thursday night from the middle of September to the middle of June, except for nights when the blood donor clinic uses the space.
“The school used it as a fundraiser for a trip to Toronto every two years, so I thought if it worked for them it should work here,” said Rod, who also acts as the club’s bingo caller.
The doors open at 6 p.m. and the games start at 7 and typically run until about 9:45 p.m. The Lions will also open a concession stand with pop, coffee and snacks as well as provide a 10-minute intermission halfway through so players can have a break or go outside for a cigarette.
The games are licensed by the township, but no alcohol is served and players must be 18 years of age or older to participate. Martin also said that even though bingo has a reputation of being a game for older people, people in their 20s or 30s can come out as well to enjoy the fun and maybe win a little bit of money.
“Bingo halls are thought of as a smoky room, a little bit like the Legion used to be, but that’s not so anymore,” said Martin. “We certainly encourage people to come out and play, it’s a fun night.”
Martin also said all the money raised goes back into the community for the Lions’ various projects, ranging from the memorial forest and the walking trail to supporting minor sports and youth groups such as the boy scouts, cubs and girl guides. In total, they hope to raise about $15,000 to help support those causes.
For more information, call Rod Martin at 519-500-1434.