Say the word “Bingo” and you don’t exactly think of a lounge — unless that lounge is in a long-term care facility or maybe a kindergarten classroom. Main Street Girls Against MS, however, have hit on a winning fundraiser: Bingo Night at the Main Street Lounge in Quincy.
While there’s a steady group of die-hard bingo players, the twice monthly fundraiser is always full of surprised participants — who attest to having no clue how fun a bingo night could be.
There was the time the construction workers from Orange County with full tattoo sleeves came in for a drink at the sports bar below, but bingo caught their eyes and ears so they stayed for the whole evening and donated extra to the cause.
There was the High Sierra Music Festival participants who wanted a little air conditioning and some entertainment as they waited for the next band they wanted to see play.
There are the unsuspecting people who don’t know they’re about to play bingo until Lori Bennett — whose idea it was in the first place — yells at them from across the Lounge to come in and play.
It attracts the older patron and younger alike — the lot of them crowding around lounge tables with five bingo cards apiece, a dobber and maybe some chicken wings and a cocktail.
Main Street Lounge owner Karen Powell is happy to have them there. “It’s an event that’s really taken off,” said Powell.
Players look forward to the prizes — many of which have a white elephant silliness about them. Some bingo players bring in prizes for donation. A favorite? Farm free eggs. The eggs are usually the first prize to be snatched up each time.
Everyone in the Lounge up for playing a round gets one free bingo card and has to pay $1 for each additional card. There’s a donation jar, too, which almost always seems to get filled.
They don’t make too much at any one fundraiser — the average take is between $60 and $100 dollars — but it gives friends and family an opportunity to hang out and play and builds up their coffers slowly, but surely. Between the walks they’ve raised money for and the bingo nights, they’ve raised about $20,000 for the National MS Society for research for both finding out more about how MS happens and for a cure.
The Main Street Girls Against MS formed roughly seven years ago — three years after the diagnosis of member Kimberly West-Carroll with MS. It’s comprised of many people, but the hard core bingo players and callers are Lorrie Bennett and her daughters, her sister Tracie Jordan-Nolan and her kids — and of course West-Carroll. They’ve all been friends for over 20 years.
Each year they participate in a walk near Lake Tahoe and the MudRun. They’ve won the Spirit Award for their gregarious outgoing team. They tied for first place for their booth this year at the Running of the Bears race.
The next bingo event is a Christmas Bingo Special in the Main Street Lounge on Thursday, Dec. 7, at 5:30 p.m. Games last till 8:30 p.m., though sometimes run longer depending on the mood of the bingo crowd, with holiday-oriented prizes to be won.
In January, the Main Street Girls will go back to hosting the second and fourth Thursday of the month as their fundraiser. They’ll also be doing more wine tastings as fundraisers.
“It’s a fun party. Anyone can join with us — people supporting MS research,” said Melodie Bennett, who sometimes calls out the bingo numbers. They’d love to see participation from people around the county.
Lorrie Bennett described a heartwarming moment for them. Not too long ago, a woman with MS played a few games, not realizing at first that the fundraiser was for the very disease she struggled with. She told them it meant a lot to her for them to do this. It made them happy to be doing it.