Longtime fundraisers fading away?
Once upon a time the chairs were full every game night and local fire departments raised a fair amount of money through hosting a weekly bingo game. But those days seem to have gone away.
Until recently, an average night of white, numbered ping-pong balls pouring over one another in the hopper could yield hundreds of dollars in return for a fire department.
But organizers say the economy has fallen off and it seems people might not have the discretionary income they once possessed.
North Granville Fire Chief Scott McCullen said his department may have to stop hosting bingo because the fundraiser has become a financial drain.
“The bottom line is we need people to come out and support us or we are closing. I have three months to see what happens and to see if we stay open,” McCullen said.
The most recent license renewal covers just long enough to take the North Granville Community Center bingo game into early March, he said.
“The last few months have been in the dumps; we’re not making any money and have no crowds,” he said. The slump in attendance has made hosting the games a money-losing proposition for the department.
Dan Roberts, treasurer of the Hook & Ladder Fire Company on Quaker Street, only recently announced the department would bring back bingo as a fundraiser after taking some time away from it during the warmer months.
Roberts said the new games, which started the first weekend in December, were not doing as well as expected.
“It’s been all right, but not great, not as good as what we’re hoping. We’re going to keep it going for a while and see what happens,” he said.
“The crowds are small right now, but we’re trying to make it work,” Roberts said.
McCullen said in hopes of invigorating the bingo-playing population he has upped payouts in a last-ditch effort.
“I’ve taken the last run at saving bingo. We have restructured the games and payouts for the last time. We’re paying more for all games,” McCullen said.
The chief explained the move:
“The last game will start at 45 numbers every week if no one hits it we will put 60 percent of what we bring in for that game toward the pot; every week it will go up a number if no one hits the pot. So when it gets up in the high numbers the money should be up really high. We will keep raising the number until it goes (someone hits it) and when it does it should be a good pot,” McCullen said.
With finances tight for the departments as well, McCullen said, the departments will have to find other options but only if they have to.
“We’ve got to make money. If not, and we can’t (pay the bills) and make money, we close the doors. That is the last thing I want to do, but if we don’t have a crowd and don’t make money there is nowhere to turn but to shut down,” he said.
The North Granville Hose Company hosts bingo every Wednesday night starting at 7 p.m. while the Hook & Ladder Fire Company opens the doors to the firehouse on Saturday evenings at 7 p.m.