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Bonkers over BINGO

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - This photo shows the new Bingo board as just unpacked by Bingo Chair Neva McPherson and John Koebrick. John's sister is a former Soroptimist and he is a Bingo volunteer.

Shelby Case
   Central Oregonian
   Alta Hibbert loves Bingo.
   She figures she has been playing the game for about 50 years.
   "A long time," said the 74-year-old Prineville resident, with a chuckle.
   But she noted that the game is not played in Prineville as much as it used to be.
   There are regular games at the Prineville Senior Center and attendance is good.
   "We usually have (more than) 100," Hibbert said. "We don't have as much as we used to have here. We used to have it at the VFW and the Eagles. And quite a few years ago, they used to have it at the Elks."
   Why the decline? She said there are not as many volunteers who are callers.
   "My husband passed away two years ago, and he used to call at the VFW and the Eagles and the Elks," Hibbert said of her spouse, Gene.
   "I have always liked to play Bingo, because I played it for so many years, and it's a way to get out," said Hibbert, who has been a Prineville resident since 1956.
   In Karole Stockton's opinion, Bingo is surviving here in Prineville.
   "We call it Family Night Bingo," she said. "We have free popcorn and food available usually."
   "Ours is open to the public without membership requirements," Stockton added.
   Young people and teenagers attend games at the senior center, "and parents sometimes bring young children, and they bring games and things like that," Stockton said.
   Stockton has been playing the popular game a long time.
   "Before I was ever a Soroptimist, I was playing Bingo," she said. "Not every week. Some people play every week. But I'm a caller too, so I understand both sides of the ball here."
   Bingo chairwoman Neva McPherson also commented on the popularity of the game in the community.
   "I think it's one of the few entertainments," McPherson said. "Not only that, but it's a family entertainment."
   Children are welcome to attend Bingo games, as long as they are well-behaved and accompanied by their parents.
   "I think it's just something their parents can do with them," McPherson added. "Sometimes we have three generations coming."
   "It's a family thing," McPherson said. "We just have a lot of fun. There's not too many things that go on in the city of Prineville -- not too many social things."
   A new Bingo machine will help at the senior center, and Hibbert is among those who is excited about it.
   "I think it will be real nice when they get the new machine up," she said. "I mean, it will be similar to what other senior halls have."
   Stockton said Soroptimists International of Prineville (SI Prineville) will use the machine, and said the Soroptimist Club and the Prineville Soroptimist Charitable Trust are splitting the equipment cost. Because the Soroptimists have such a large business entity and the group is non-profit, "several years ago this charitable trust was created to be a business entity for SI Prineville."
   The trust consists of a seven-member board, which makes the business decisions. All club members are ex-officio members and may attend meetings.
   "The Bingo began as a fund-raising effort by the club to support the charitable trust," Stockton said. "It's an income issue to assist the charitable trust in its support of the senior center."
   Bingo chairwoman and SI Prineville member Neva McPherson was instrumental in helping get a new Bingo machine for the community. Stockton said she "thoroughly investigated new equipment and brought it back for a vote and approval of the funding."
   The new machine is at the senior center.
   "We are still using the old machine," Stockton said. "This new one is more sophisticated."
   McPherson said the old machine is at least 20 years old.
   "Nobody can tell for sure how long we've had it," McPherson said.
   Stockton added that the volunteer callers will like it because it is automated and one cannot accidentally drop the Bingo balls.
   "It's more electronically friendly for a caller," McPherson said. "That's one of the main things. It has the new flashing board that has some new features on it that we didn't have before."
   The new machine sets up the games automatically, but the Soroptimists still have to have Bingo callers.
   Stockton outlined other benefits of the new equipment.
   "It lights the last ball called, and that's important because a person can't Bingo unless it's the last ball called," Stockton said. "The other thing is the players are going to like it because the lighting is better and the readability is better."
   A few volunteer callers include Tom Moore and Al Wintermute, as Stockton pointed out.
   "Soroptimists, of course, are all volunteers. None of us is paid to do this," Stockton said, adding that Bingo is one of the Soroptimists' efforts to help the senior center. "Now we're happy to note that we have some community volunteers who are helping with the Bingo."
   Stockton also discussed when the new machine will be operating.
   "As soon as we run a practice game on it, it may be very soon," she said. "We may have a practice game in December. Because the volunteer source is small, we may have to reduce our Bingo Nights to twice a month, instead of every Friday as we do. Holidays are an exception, of course."
   Volunteers are needed to help out on the Family Bingo Nights. Call 447-5202 for more information.
   "We'd love to have more volunteers too, because we are a very small group," McPherson said.