By Sarah Vahlkamp
Updated: 7:57 PM
Quincy Firefighters Gamble for a Cause
The members of the Quincy Fire Department Local 63 held a meeting to decide what they could personally do to help out the community. Ideas were presented by the members, and a final decision was made that a weekly fundraiser was to be held. The fundraiser would not only support local organizations, but it would also provide a way for the citizens of Quincy to get to know their emergency personnel.
“We knew that with all fundraising, if you do the same thing over and over again, it becomes stale,” said Brother Ed Arambasich,Ofm., the Fire Department Chaplain. “We wanted to try something new.”
After it was decided that a fundraiser was going to be held weekly, the decision of what the fundraiser was actually going to be came into questions. Firefighters wanted to do something that no other organizations were doing on a regular basis, but wanted the fundraiser to be fun at the same time. Finally, in January of 2014, the decision to hold a weekly bingo game night was made.
“We wanted to set up a fundraiser that would support local groups who need our help. Bingo provides a fun environment to meet new people as well as associate with the firefighter,” says Captain Bernie Vahlkamp.
Each week, firemen take time out of their day to volunteer at bingo, and call numbers as well as sell other tickets to games as the night goes on. The firemen are not paid, and none of the profits from the night go directly to the Quincy Fire Department. These men offer their time to bring awareness to the community about organizations in need, as well as allowing the people of Quincy to associate with and get to know their first responders.
While some of the money raised goes towards paying the winners every week, the rest is divided among other local organizations. Some of the organizations that receive the profits from the night are Camp Callahan, Salvation Army, Brother Ed Ministries, Madonna House, Meals on Wheels, the Honor Flight, Fishing For Freedom, and the Angel Tree. However, not only do the profits from bingo help the community, but also the decision to host the fundraiser at the Elks Lodge plays a big part in community support. Players are able to buy food and drinks provided by the Elks Lodge as the night goes on. Not only does that provide business every week for the Lodge, but the Elks also donate a portion of their profits to helping the youth and youth organizations. It is a win/win not only for the firefighters supporting the local community but also for the Elks Lodge on a national level.
As per the careful eye on the clock of the regular bingo players, bingo starts at precisely 6:30 PM at the Elks Lodge. The Elks Lodge is located at 311 N 2nd St. in Quincy, and parking is available on either side of the lodge. The “Early Bird” games consisting of three different bingo patterns starts at exactly 6:30 with the traditional games beginning directly after. It is not necessary to play the Early Bird games, but a main pack for the traditional games must be purchased upon entering the building. The main pack is $10 per person, and people are encouraged to purchase “add ons” or additional games along with the main pack. For example, the Fire Cash game which consists of calling a letter and color rather than a number, is a $5 add on that allows players to test their luck at wining the jackpot. Currently, the jackpot prize is around $6,000 if the person bingos on the letter and color that is designated as the ‘jackpot ball’ before the game starts. The variation in games may sound confusing at first, but the firemen always explain the games and offer additional help to anyone who feels lost. The main pack comes with 16 games with prizes ranging from $80 to $500. There is no limit on how many games you can win, and if more than one person bingos at the same time, the prize is divided by how many players called bingo.
To simplify the night a little bit, this is the key information you need to know before playing:
- Bingo starts at precisely 6:30 PM on every Thursday of every week at the Elks Lodge.
- You must be 18 years or older to participate in bingo.
- Upon entering the door, each person is required to purchase their own main pack to play the game.
- Sixteen games with various patterns will be played throughout the night in the main pack.
- Additional add on games will also be played throughout the night.
- The night usually ends around 9 PM.
- The night averages 98 to 108 people every week.
Anyone 18 years or older is welcome to join the firemen every Thursday night. However, some players have become reoccuring participants and even bring good luck charms to help aid them in hopefully winning a game. Ginger Hasbrouck, a 911 dispatcher and regular participant in the bingo nights, brings trinkets such as a picture of her and her husband, and a small lady bug figurine to provide her good luck. She attends religiously and has won a few games, but says it isn’t the winning that keeps her coming back.
“I come to bingo to support the firemen’s cause rather than a different organization because 1. I enjoy playing bingo and 2. simply because of where I work,” says Ginger.
Bingo provides an outlet for players to relax and have fun in a safe and enjoyable environment. Since the fundraiser occurs every week, it also provides an opportunity for players to have something to look forward to. Players begin to learn the firemen by their first name, and can socialize with them on a weekly basis to feel more comfortable about who is protecting and serving their homes. The firemen encourage all participants to turn off their cell phones to avoid distractions for not only themselves but others around them as well.
“Young people are able to come with their friends and get away from their phones and their computers all while helping people,” says Brother Ed.
For any additional information regarding the fundraiser, you can contact Deon Baker, head of the fundraiser, or the Central Fire Station by calling 217-228-4459. The Elks Lodge is also available at 217-222-3423.