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Bingo Big Business for Knights of Columbus

Knights donate thousands of dollars.

Many years ago, Lillie Krout started playing Bingo on Tuesday nights at St. Louis Catholic Church on Popkins Lane. Her daughter, Donna Nash, said that for 45 years, she worked very hard as a child care provider in her home, and playing Bingo once a week was her way of relaxing.

Krout went to that Bingo for 30 years until they stopped hosting it. She also played Bingo at the Franconia Fire Department on Beulah Road and then started going to Knights of Columbus when they opened in 1976. She continued going to both Franconia and the Knights of Columbus for about 10 years. Now she plays Bingo at the Knights of Columbus and the Lion's Club on Richmond Highway. Nash said that she has been going to both of these Bingos for years.

Nash said, "At her age (almost 85), Bingo has provided not only entertainment but has also kept her mind active. She is sharp as a tack."

By providing Bingo games twice a week, the Knights are not only providing an outlet for people like Krout, but they are raising a tremendous amount of money for charity.

"Last year we donated over $100,000 to local charities," said Don Schroeder, who has been the Bingo chairman for the past three years.

Paul Mehler said that from its beginning in 1976, Mount Vernon Council's Bingo Operation has grown from a relatively small number of players (about 100) to a rather large stable number (125 to 150).

"During this time, more than $2 million have been given to charities from Bingo. Much of the revenue during the initial years (1976-1980) had to pay for the sizable mortgage for the land and the building at the present location.

From 1980 on, net proceeds that have been given to local charities and other charitable organizations averaged more than $100,000 per year.

"A sizable group of member volunteers (more than 30) work the Bingo games. Each volunteer works at least twice a month, but can be called on to fill in when a volunteer cannot make it. Each volunteer accumulates many hours during the course of a year, and those hours are converted to dollars for the volunteer to give to a charity of his or her choosing.î

EVERY WEDNESDAY and Friday at 7 p.m., Bingo players start streaming into the hall. Armed with bags of daubers (those colorful markers used to mark the sheets), snacks and drinks, most players are there for the evening. Some come just for the early bird, but the majority of players stay for the whole program. Players can buy individual books, sheets or cards, or they can purchase a package, which includes the early bird, regular program, bonanza, winner-take-all, extra jackpot, quickies, late birds and treasure chest.

Most games pay $100, but the jackpots can pay up to $1,000; there are a few non-cash prizes.

Volunteers, like Ernie Graves, work as pay-off managers roaming the hall waiting for the familiar call of 'Bingo.' He said that one week they had a special jackpot and a woman won $6,500.

Program starts with regular Bingo, but they also play double Bingo, postage stamp, triple Bingo, small picture frame, hustler, six pack and other variations. Sometimes there's one winner; often there's more than one.

LAST WEEK, Maria Smith was one of the players who won $100 in regular Bingo. Jim Dunn, the facilities manager for Bingo, said that the Knights are known for running a good clean Bingo. As a result, players come from as far as Maryland to play.

In addition to the weekly Bingos, Mount Vernon Council also offers its large hall for rental on weekends. From a very modest beginning, the Hall has been fully booked during the current year. Among the many events that take place in the Hall are wedding receptions, anniversary dinners, birthday parties, seminars, conferences and special parties.

One of the special events that will occur this weekend is "Mount Vernon According To The Georges," a gala dinner dance co-hosted by Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce and the Knights of Columbus. The event will benefit UCM Agency Community Solutions. It will be held on Saturday, November 8, with a reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner, program and dancing at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $25 per person.

The Knights of Columbus is located at 8592 Richmond Highway. Bingo is held every Wednesday and Friday at 7 p.m. For more information on Bingo or on this weekend's gala, call 703-360-1964.