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Bingo profits down as seasonal visitors leave

May 14, 2014
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Teresa Cancel, the director of the Lehigh Acres Senior Citizen Center says she knows there must be lots of people in Lehigh who might want to play Bingo and now is the time to try it out and she guarantees that you will enjoy yourself.

The fact is, she says, when Season ends, the number of people who come to the Senior Center to play Bingo drops off dramatically and that means there are hardly enough profit to pay many of the bills at the center.

"During Season, we are packed with Bingo players. But when our northern visitors go back home, there is a real void," Cancel said.

Bingo is played at the Senior Center every Tuesday night and the game has been a real mainstay of financial funding for the Center for more than 20 years. Bingo at the Senior Center is an attraction that draws regulars who have been coming every year.

"But now we are about 80 short. During Season we have a good crowd of 125 to 135 people every week," Cancel said.

There is Early Bird Bingo that starts at 6 p.m. and at 6:30 p.m., regular Bingo.

Cancel says you can come to the senior center at 5:30 p.m. to buy your Bingo cards and if you come even earlier - around 4 p.m. - you can have what she calls "a great dinner" for only $4.50.

"Peggy Halverson cooks the best dinners you will ever eat," Cancel laughed. "She is tops and a lot of people drop in, no matter their age, just to get one of her dinners. Once you have eaten her cooking, you'll keep coming back."

Cancel explained that the senior center depends on the profits from Bingo to pay their electric, utility and other bills. When there isn't enough money and there isn't these days, Cancel says, the center has to dig into the membership fees fund.

"That fund pays for all the great events we have here," she said. "We don't like to have to take money from there."

"Not only great events, but the money from the membership fund also pays for classes, supplies and lots of other things we need at the center," Cannel explained.

The Lehigh Acres Senior Citizen Center is located at 219 Plaza Drive, just behind the East Zone Sheriff's Substation on Homestead Road. There is plenty of parking for Bingo players.

Cancel noted that the Bingo games are run by very dedicated volunteers and when they see empty seats, "they become disheartened."

"They do a great job, but they want to see the auditorium here filled with people playing Bingo."

The so-called "callers," those who shout out the numbers for Bingo include such volunteers as Chester Olson, Don Espiritu and Sharon Howen, all of Lehigh. Nancy Bartlett and Jean Smith are also callers but Cancel said they have returned to their homes up north.

In addition to the Bingo callers, there are several other volunteers who work the games. Cancel said Terry Hommen is the CEO of the Bingo games, which means she oversees everything.

Cancel said everyone can have an ice cream soda for a dollar, and at 8 p.m. there is a "recess of sorts" when our Bingo players can have a sandwich, hot dog and drink at a very low price.

"We just want to get the word out to everyone in Lehigh that Bingo is a lot of fun and to remind people who haven't played for years, that now is a great time to come to the senior center and try to win," Cancel said.

During Season and continuing all year long, there are close to 1,500 members on the membership rolls of the senior center.

"There are so many great things to do here that we can always welcome new members. The membership fees are very small and the center offers so much," Cancel said.

"But right now, we want to get the word out that this is the place to play Bingo - every Tuesday night, starting at 6 p.m., or earlier if you want a really great dinner that you don't have to cook at home. They have a lot of fun and we want others to know about our Bingo," Cancel said.



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