How We Got Started
Carol Dorler, Nancy Chain, and Pat Rosandich (officers of Games Plus) started to meet with Eric Angle, who headed up the Lifestyle Department, back in January of 2009. We worked with Eric for several months, learning what it would take for us to get a license and start Bingo sessions at Sun City Shadow Hills. Eric, having run bingo at casinos at one time, was extremely instrumental in securing permission from the Board, getting our Bingo license approved by the City of Indio, acquiring equipment & supplies, and train us. Our license was approved on August 5, 2009.
Once we had our license and approval from the Board we could go ahead and start getting ready for our first Bingo session. We had to find volunteers to help us, purchase the paper, buy cash boxes, office supplies (pencils, erasers, sticky pads, paper clips, etc.) daubers, snacks, door prizes, set up a separate bank account just for Bingo, train our volunteers, program the bingo machine, etc. We had some surplus funds in our Games Plus bank account to use as seed money for these purchases.
We have been very fortunate to have Gus Ramirez involved from the start which was Eric’s suggestion. He worked with us to complete our Bingo patterns for several sessions. He designed a computer program that allows us to enter the ball called into the computer. It appears on the big movie screen on a bingo sheet that indicates the pattern we are playing. This let’s folks know what numbers have been called (we do not have a flashboard to light up the numbers). Gus helped us design our flyers and our posters. He is still involved to this day when we require changes or additions to our program.
Behind the Scenes
We need to purchase bingo supplies, snacks, door prizes, make tickets, get change from the bank, make deposits monthly after our sessions, line up our volunteers for each session, keep our flyers out in the rounds, our poster in the lobby, put out a sign the day of bingo to let people know bingo is being held that night, make sure we continue to be on the Sun City web site. The day of bingo we have to get there about an hour before doors open to get ready. We have to put garbage bags out on each table plus the pattern sheets for that night. We count the monies, get all the bingo paper, signs, and snacks/daubers out and set up. Date the tickets and separate raffle tickets for intermission door prizes.
We are allowed to keep a specific amount of the total proceeds for our purchases and charitable contributions. Out of this money we have to purchase our supplies and have been blessed to be able to give contributions to the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission every year. We wanted to support a local community charity and it makes sense to donate to this worthy organization. (It is a requirement of our Bingo license to give to a charity.)
We held our very first Bingo session on March 28, 2010. We had about 120 attendees. Eric was right there to help us and make sure we didn’t make any blunders. He came to our first couple of sessions and then left us on our own; however, he always had an open door if we needed advice. Once the word passed around our numbers continued to grow throughout the last eight years. Currently in full season we have between 150 to 200 people at each session. During non-season it is around 140 to 170 folks. We hold Bingo the first Friday of the month except in July and August when we are dark.
The Bingo players have made this a very “social” event. Our doors open at 5:30 PM and there is usually a line starting around 5:00 PM. They bring tons of food, drinks, and plenty of conversation to the room to share with their friends.
Bingo starts at 6:30. It cost $5 for each pack. There are two special games that cost $3. For only $8 our players have loads of fun. Our payouts depend on how many people come. Our 2 special games are the highest paying and are usually $250 each during the season.
It took us a full year to feel comfortable with what we are doing. We now have it down to a science. We do have a core volunteer group that support us even when they don’t play the game themselves. The only problem we have is getting “new” volunteers to help us out. It becomes difficult to run a session when we don’t have enough people to help. So far, we have made it work and hope to continue to do so.
We are very proud of what we have put together and to bring so much fun to our community once a month. We get a warm fuzzy feeling when people see one of us in the market, drugstore, or mall, and say, “Look there’s the Bingo Lady!”