Opening night at Veterans Bingo draws capacity crowd

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There was a full house for Saturday evening’s first round of games and prizes at the new Veterans Bingo hall in the former Ralph’s Food Fair building on Carol Malone Boulevard in Grayson.

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Staff members dealt with several unexpected challenges and equipment problems during the first night of gaming in Grayson, although a capacity crowd seemed more than willing to put any issues aside to enjoy themselves at the recently renovated grocery store space.

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Earl Shaffer of Citizens Veterans Association, the organization in charge of the bingo hall and all proceeds. Shaffer stressed there are strict laws governing how proceeds from the new Bingo hall are to be distributed.

“By our charter,
all money has to go to veterans and military-related causes. It can’t
be used for anything else,” Shaffer said, explaining priorities for
the organization begin with the park at the corner of Main and Hord
Streets in downtown Grayson and include JROTC groups at West Carter
and East Carter High School, as well as recognized veterans’ groups
including the American Legion.

“We want to take Carter County’s Vietnam veterans on their own honor flight to Washington D.C. to go to the ‘Vietnam Wall’ memorial,” Shaffer said, adding they also want to find ways to pay for meals of Carter County veterans served by the local Meals on Wheels organization.

Shaffer said the new Bingo hall has been in the works for quite a long time, and was essentially born from a desire to find a better source of funding for the downtown veterans park, as well as a visit to the nation’s capital.“A few years ago I became president of the organization, basically by default,” he said, explaining supporters were genuine and enthusiastic, but constricted by their own schedules and other factors. A raffle project made money “but hardly enough to make any improvements at the park,” Shaffer said. “We had to look for a way to make money. Out of that, sprang this,” Shaffer said, gesturing around himself toward the renovated gathering space in the former grocery store.

Property owners Bill and Edd Woods were beyond instrumental in making the idea a reality, he said. “They have done a heck of a job and they have been just great to work with,” Shaffer said.

The restaurant inside the Bingo hall will be named in honor of the Woods’ father, Ralph. “We will be serving food when we open, at ‘Ralph’s Pretty Good Cafe.’ It will be just concessions for now… burgers and hot dogs and chips and things, but we will have specials and meals as soon as we get everything going,” he said, smiling as he announced Chef David Gibson, who is familiar to local Bingo players from his years at another nearby hall, will be in the kitchen.“He cooked at Big John’s for many years and we heard a lot of good things about him.” Shaffer said.

Bingo “packs” will cost $6 “just like everywhere else,” he said, and games will be supervised and operated by another person who is well known among regular Bingo enthusiasts in the area. “Robin Messer will be our Bingo manager. She has been working with Bingo for more than 12 years and they all know her,” he said, adding “We will also play the games they are all familiar with.”

Smoking will be allowed, although non-smokers will have dedicated areas for themselves.

Veterans Bingo will host games on Saturday and Sunday, with doors opening at 4 p.m.. early games starting at 4:30, and Bingo action beginning at 6:30.

For more information, call 606-474-0481.

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