(Above: Legion executive members Sue McCormick (left) and Monique Vail in front of the Stittsville Legion sign.)
Sue McCormick says she’ll have a hard time holding back tears when she calls the last weekly bingo game at the Stittsville Legion this Wednesday, December 16.
“It’s going to be sad,” said McCormick, 1st Vice President and Bingo Chair at the Legion. “I’m hoping I don’t cry.”
Organizers think that weekly bingo has been played at the Legion since at least 1967, making it a 48-year old tradition. The Legion’s executive committee made the decision to end the program after seeing a steady decline in attendance over the last couple of years.
“We used to get 50-60 people out, easily. Now 35-40 people would be a very high number,” says McCormick.
When I stopped in at the Legion on the weekend, I met Barbara Forbes. Her mother Christine Forbes, 88, has been a regular at bingo night since the 1960s.
“She gets her hair done on Wednesdays, and arrives early at 4pm even though it doesn’t start until 6:45pm,” said Forbes. “She lives nearby on Orville so it’s convenient for her.”
She says her mother also worked at the canteen during bingo nights for “years and years”. Wednesday night bingo has become an important weekly social event for a lot of people in our community, especially seniors.
“There are many people who have made friends here. They may not see those friends again,” said Forbes.
Monique Vail, a member of the Legion’s executive committee, says that they made the decision because the event was losing money. Low attendance meant that when the big weekly jackpot was awarded, the Legion would lose money on the night. Their license, which costs $1,000 every six months, is up for renewal in January.
“The executive made this decision with very heavy hearts. It is purely a business decision . We could not in good conscience continue to lose money on it,” says Vail. “Many of our regulars were pretty upset when we announced last week.”
Vail says the drop in attendance is probably due to the changing demographics in Stittsville (more younger families in the community), plus the prize money that they could offer was lower than bigger bingos in the city.
“And it just might be bingos are not as popular as they used to be,” says Vail.
The bingo was an important fundraiser for the Legion, with half of all the money received going to charity. They recently made large donations to the Snowsuit Fund and a $500 donation to the Stittsville Food Bank. A big chunk of the money raised also went to sponsor teams for the Legion’s Poppy Blitz.
This Wednesday’s bingo will go out with a splash. McCormick says they’re planning to have a special cake made up, they’ll be giving out Christmas bingo dabbers, and they’ll keep calling numbers until the jackpot is won. They’re hoping for a big turn-out.
The final bingo at the Stittsville Legion will be played on Wednesday, December 16 from 6:45pm-9:00pm. Doors open at 5:00pm. It’s open to the public.
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