I didn’t think I would be playing bingo on a Sunday afternoon until well into my retirement, but there I was, not even a year out of college and daubing hot pink ink onto bingo cards. After seeing charity bingo listed on the Davis Dirt calendar–fun and for a good cause!–I couldn’t say No to such an opportunity, so I said Yes.
Every second Sunday of the month, Odd Fellows holds a three-hour bingo session to raise money for a selected nonprofit organization. Odd Fellows, officially known as Davis Lodge Number 169–Independent Order of Odd Fellows (http://davislodge.org/), is a service-based fraternal organization located in downtown Davis. It is the oldest organization in Davis, as it was established in 1870, before the City of Davis or UC Davis were established. Anyone above the age of 16 can submit an application to join the Odd Fellows, and the order currently has around 200 members, ranging from ages 19-90. The group focuses its activities and efforts on community support and charitable giving, and sponsors events such as the annual Breakfast with Santa, The World’s Greatest Bicycle Parade, and of course bingo.
On Sunday, March 13, Odd Fellows Bingo raised money for the Davis Bridge Educational Foundation (DBEF), http://www.davisbridge.org, which provides afterschool homework clubs for low-income and academically-at-risk students in Davis. UC Davis students volunteer at the clubs, and provide tutoring, computer access, school supplies and snacks. DBEF receives no funding from the Davis Joint Unified School District, and all of the proceeds from bingo, minus gaming expenses, went to DBEF, so the money that the Odd Fellows donated was able to make a big difference to the program.
My experience with Odd Fellows Bingo was a mixture of fun and bemusement. The way I remembered bingo from my third grade Spanish class, there was only one card, some plastic chips, and lots of cheating. At Odd Fellows, I paid $12 at the door for the basic bingo package, and was surprised to receive no less than 15 bingo sheets (each with 3-6 cards on them) and one raffle ticket. There was no cheating as officials roamed the room during the game, and instead of receiving a sticker reading “Muy bien!”, the winners received cash prizes of up to $250 and items such as gift baskets and bottles of fancy liqueurs. Things had changed since Señora Alvarez’s class!
Dozens of people were already seated when I arrived, their bingo cards spread out in the front of them so that the rows of tables looked as if they had been gift-wrapped with colorful squares of paper. From the looks of it, most people had bought larger packages than mine, and were going to be playing several sheets at once, each sheet containing 3-6 bingo cards. The Chair of the Odd Fellows Bingo Committee, Deanna Chavis, welcomed me and led me to sit next to her husband Darrick Chavis, who was a first-time bingo player as well. Darrick and I tried to puzzle out the many colored sheets and the phrases on the schedule such as “Yellow 4 on, Small picture frame (no B/O)” and “Olive 3 on, Special Block of Six Hard Way.” Finally, Deanna’s mother, Holly Keefer, and a veteran of the game, Richard Bryant–who has been playing for three years–took pity on us and explained the rules.
I was still slightly confused when the announcer began to call the numbers, but I quickly picked up the basics. It was fun to use my plastic dauber to make bright pink dots of ink over the numbers, and it was soothing to listen to the numbers being called and to methodically search them out on my cards. The atmosphere in the room became noticeably more tense as each game progressed, and when someone called “Bingo!” the room errupted into groans, which were quickly followed by polite applause. In the end, I didn’t win anything, but unlike gambling at a casino, I didn’t “lose” my money; it went to a good cause. I have never had so much fun donating money to a charity before.
Lastly, Deanna sent me such a wonderful paragraph about how she became involved with the Odd Fellows and what the organization is about, that I wanted to share it with you:
“I found out about the Odd Fellows through Santa Clause. … Even before the Odd Fellows, I engaged in many volunteer opportunities in the community. One of my favorites was dressing up as Santa’s helper and accompanying Santa to group home holiday parties for the Sacramento Children’s Home and like organizations. The guy who portrays Santa is actually an Odd Fellow … and he had mentioned the Odd Fellows, but I thought it was a fraternity full of older men, so I never gave them much thought. In 2009, Santa urged me to attend a meeting at the lodge to see what they do. After meeting many Odd Fellows (many of which were not old men) and hearing about all the ways they serve the community, I fell in love. I have always felt very passionate about serving my community in any way I can and it was so refreshing to meet a group of people that felt just as passionate about service as I did. I have been really involved in every activity and committee that my schedule allows and I have found it to be the most rewarding experience. The Odd Fellows is not a professional booster club like some other fraternities that we often get lumped with, it’s just a great group of big-hearted people with one common goal, and that is to do everything we can to provide service and resources wherever (they are) needed in our community.”
If you’d like to play bingo to help out a local nonprofit organization, Odd Fellows puts it on the second Sunday of each month at 1 pm, in the downstairs hall of the Odd Fellows Lodge, located at 415 Second Street. The venue is wheelchair accessible, and snacks are sold throughout the game. Visit the website at http://www.davisbingo.com/ for more information. The next bingo game will be played on Sunday, April 10th at 1 pm, and all of the proceeds will go to benefit the Davis Musical Theatre Company (http://www.dmtc.org/about-dmtc.ht).