Bingo no more?

Economy, declining numbers could force closure of long time fundraiser

A staple of fire department fundraising support for more than 20 years may fall victim to the flagging economy, North Granville Fire Department officials report.

North Granville Fire Chief Scott McCullen said the department’s Bingo game, which has been held at the North Granville Community Center for about two decades, is on a month-to-month basis the chief said.

And the final month could be February.

“We are having big trouble with Bingo. It’s possible we’ll have to shut down,” McCullen said.

“For the last year the attendance has been declining and now it’s at rock bottom. We have been adjusting to try to stay open, but it’s not looking good,” McCullen said.

McCullen said the crowds for the Wednesday Bingo have dropped steadily to the point the department now renews its license for hosting the games on a monthly basis.

“We backed off buying a half year’s license to buy two months because of how the economy is,” McCullen said. “I knew this would be a challenge.”

“We need bingo players or we’ll be closing the doors. I have the license for one more month and if things don’t look better in the next couple of weeks we’ll shut it down,” he said.

The weekly games used to bring in as many as 80 people, he said, adding that the fire company needed to see about 55 to 60 people come through the doors before the operation could turn any profit after fees and costs.

“I hate to do it, but we are losing money and we can’t keep going on,” he said. “What we are going to do to raise money now, I don’t have an answer yet; times are the toughest I have ever seen.” 

McCullen said if the Bingo did close he was not yet sure if it would be a permanent measure or until spring or a different later date when people have more discretionary income.

McCullen said the department does not have any substitute fundraisers waiting in the wings to replace what the Bingo used to bring in to its coffers.

The fire department fundraises about 30 percent of their annual operating budget, he said. A number he did not think the two remaining annual fundraisers, the antique tractor pull and car show, could accomplish alone.

The department has tried to come up with other ideas, including holding basket parties. “The benefits we have held have done pretty good, so I thought maybe we can do one for the department, but other than that…I don’t know,” he said.

Due to fuel costs and the state of the economy, North Granville was the last Granville fire company to do away with its annual summer carnival. Members cited highly decreased profitability and increased ride costs combined with flagging attendance as reasons for the decision to close it.

McCullen said it was doubtful the carnival would return, but said he could see the Bingo being suspended until spring or longer and still making its return.

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