Bingo! Tournament benefits Poway Senior Center
By Pat Kumpan
Thanks to enthusiastic bingo players, $3,000 was raised Sunday for Poway Senior Center programs during the 10th Anniversary Bingo Tournament at the center.
According to Mary Ann Oberle, who manages the program, 133 people attended the event, down from last year’s 151 players, but the crowd’s mood Sunday was festive “and we had a lot of giveaways.”
This year’s dip was due in large part to another popular community event also scheduled Sunday, she said.
Beth Smith walked away as the big tournament winner with $750 in first prize money and another $250 in accumulative bingo winnings, edging out winners Cathy Kosich and Zeny DeLarosa, who tied for second place. They won $375 in tournament money and $225 apiece in separate bingo wins.
Several merchants, such as Hamburger Factory, In-N-Out Burger, Poway UltraStar Cinema, Kohl’s, Chili’s, Walmart, Target, Original Pancake House, Chicken Pie Diner, Poway Irish Pub, Cully’s, Beauty Secrets, Barona and Viejas casinos contributed items, while Subway made boxed lunches, available for $5 each.
Many of the weekend players attended both the regularly scheduled Saturday night game as well as Sunday’s tournament. Those “regulars” said they have been volunteering at the center in various capacities and have helped as monitors, callers or money managers for more than 30 years, when bingo began.
“Our volunteers have a great sense of community,” said Executive Director Siobhan Hancock. “They have this special connection with each other.
“They’re the stars that make it happen,” Hancock added.
Proceeds from the games gross roughly $225,000 a year, which pays for several programs that benefit seniors, including the nutrition program, she said.
Volunteer Dee Dee Snyder has been coming to the center for more than 30 years, loves working in the office and continues to serve as a “caller,” someone who reads the numbered balls as they pop up during the bingo games.
“Before the games everyone is socializing and I tell them a joke to loosen them up,” Snyder said.
A look around the room on any game night indicates clusters of friends who often gravitate to the same section each week, line up their good luck charms, such as guardian angel medals, a frog prince, stuffed animals, photos and other trinkets, she added.
Snyder said players come to win money, but also to socialize and not everyone is a senior citizen.
Players need to be at least 18 and it is not unusual for those in their late teens and early 20s to make it an affordable, fun date night spending a minimum of $20 to play, bringing their own snacks, Oberle said.
“No matter what the age, people go to bingo to have fun,” she added.
Karen Blodgett of Ramona and Wendy Chmielnik of Poway are Saturday regulars, have not made it into the senior citizen ranks but enjoy the game. Win or lose, they typically would rather come to the senior center than play at a casino.
“There’s too much noise from slot machines, so we’d rather come here (Poway Senior Center),” Blodgett said.
The women met while their husband’s played local softball. Since the men were not interested in bingo, they make it a ladies’ night out and typically have fun deciding how to spend their winnings with family members, she said.
Bingo games are held on Tuesdays with an early bird version at 12:15 p.m. followed by more games at approximately 12:30 p.m. Another early bird game on the weekend starts at 6 p.m. Saturday, with additional games at 6:30 p.m. For more details, call the center at 858-748-6094.
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