Bingeing on Bingo
by Lisa Tome
Betty Jones is a perfect lady most of the time.
But she admits to cussing a bit while playing Bingo.
"I've been going to Bingo for years. I went to Perryville Fire Company until they dropped it there. Then I went to North East," said Jones, of Conowingo.
She was out at Bingo recently with her good luck charms - a troll doll and an elephant, and her friends June Blakeley and Nancy Bowden.
"I play Bingo four nights a week - in Fullerton, at Perryville, and in Rising Sun twice a week. I go to Elkton now and then," said Blakeley, who proclaims that she is a Bingo addict who plays 18 cards at a time.
Bowden also had her good luck charms, small trinkets given to her by her partner.
Fred Fisher of Peach Bottom, Pa. is also a regular at the Bingo in Rising Sun. "I know a lot of people here. I don't drink, I don't smoke, and it gets me out of the house. I usually win something," said Fisher.
Tina Hensel also plays Wednesday nights in Rising Sun. She brings good luck charms - a picture of her grandson, a teddy bear, and plastic figurines along. "I love Bingo. It's my happy hour, my time out," said Hensel.
While these players may not know it, their Bingo playing helps in the community.
For about 48 of the 52 Wednesdays each year, members of the Conowingo Lions Club are at American Legion Post 194 in Rising Sun, hosting the Bingo.
"We've been doing it for about five years," said Bernie Brown, a Conowingo Lions board member. Brown also said the weekly games are the Lions main and sole fundraiser. Initially the games were a joint venture between the Rising Sun and Conowingo Lions. Then Conowingo took it over.
The doors open at 6 p.m. with games starting an hour later.
About 45-50 people turn out each week from as far away as Harford County, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. Many of the players are regulars. Sometimes, there are newcomers.
It's cash Bingo where the games are progressive and the jackpot varies. The Lions alternate working the games. Staffing requires at least five Lions per week. Brown, Paul McGuigan, and Mike Wilson rotate as the Bingo callers.
Part of the games mean feeding people. They sell simple food: hot dogs, sloppy Joe, subs, hoagies, pizza, and baked goods. Player Ann Gibney often donates desserts.
Brown explained what proceeds from the games benefit. About $5,000 annually pays for prescription drug programs for those in need. There are also donations to Conowingo Elementary and Scout Pack 28. Funds also provide scholarships at Rising Sun and Perryville High, pay for eyeglasses for those in need, and a donation goes to the Janet Hardy Memorial Soccer games. Other community needs are met as they come up," explained Brown.
Shirley Adams has been playing Wednesday night Bingo since it started. Adams, who plays nine cards per game, likes Bingo. "I also run the senior Bingo at McDonald's. It helps support the community," said Adams.
"I play twice a week. I just like the program here. They play different games. I've been playing for 50 years. It's exciting the possibility that you might win something," said Carol Somerton of Rising Sun.
Ralph Hilditch, also of Rising Sun, says his wife, Joan, is his good luck charm. "The food is good. And I come here because I know it helps the community," said Hilditch.
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