Published in The LION Magazine June 1985
By Lion Past President Paul M. Kyle
WEBMASTER’S NOTE — 2018 marks the 42nd anniversary of this service project for the Lubbock Hub Lions Club. With each game, it’s difficult to tell who is having more fun–the residents OR the Lions! Several of the details have changed since this story first appeared in 1985…but the basic premise remains the same! Provide fun and fellowship to the residents!!
“The Lions are coming!”
Stimulation mounts. Activity increases.
At the risk of sacrificing the eardrums at the rest seated at the small square dinging table, the shriek shrilled with excitement.
The piercing sound came not from a hot, smoke-filled room occupied by men and women intent on trying to win. Instead, the word rang off the sterile walls of a room in a quiet neighborhood nursing home. Everyone there at that game is a winner, thanks to the Hub Lions Club of Lubbock, Texas.
In January 1976, Hub Lions Club President Jerry Cloud suggested conducting and financing bingo games in the various nursing homes within the city of Lubbock. The proposal was greeted with enthusiasm by the Club membership. A chairman was appointed to spearhead the effort, and the bingo apparatus was ordered. Games were scheduled on Thursday nights at 6:45 p.m. on a biweekly basis.
Stumbling through the first times the games were held, much was learned. In 1976, it was illegal in Texas to award cash prizes for bingo. Apples, oranges, bananas, and other fruits in season were used as prizes. Eventually, socks, hosiery, shaving creams, lotions, and similar items were added–even toothbrushes and toothpaste. Later, jewelry and trinket from garage sales were utilized. The baubles were most appreciated and the demand became greater than the supply–especially since the women outnumber the men on an average of ten to one. No matter that the value of the jewelry was small. It gave incentive.
Many wives joined their Lion husbands to help with the games because often some of the players are hard of hearing, partially blind, or too shaky to place the markers on their cards. It took several months to get the kinks worked out and to persuade the elderly that playing bingo was not a sin.
In 1980, Texas bingo laws were changed. Money could be substituted for merchandise, and business immediately picked up. Awarding cash prizes makes it much easier for the supervising Lions to conduct the games. With six to eight rolls of quarters, they sail through three standard games with gusto.
Playing with cash, and there is no charge for the cards, a Lion gives each player two cards, although some would like several more. During the first two games, only the card that wins is cleared and the game continues until everyone has gotten a bingo at least once. A dollar is given for each bingo, sprinkled throughout the games with $1.25 and a few $ 2 winners, the amount given as a prize is at the discretion of the Lion chairman who runs the game.
The third game is a blackout, with the winner receiving $5-7, but on the way to that blackout, each player is allowed only one bingo on either card. For the sake of accuracy, a Lion calls out the numbers on the winning card, then the player clears it.
Many residents in these nursing homes have little spending money, if any. They never win big–but their winnings enable them to buy stamps, soft drinks, and other small items that are for sale, and have fun as well.
“The Hub Lions are coming tonight.” The word spreads quickly when it is learned that club members are due at that particular home. Best clothes are hauled out of closets, lipstick, hairbrushes, cologne, shaving cream, and after shave are more in evidence than on any other day. Smiles begin to enliven wrinkled faces. The games will alleviate some of the boredom that haunts most of them. It’s a chance to dust off their memory shelf, to share with one another memories of games past.
“I won $3.75 last night, ” Mattie Meyers piped up, pushing her cup to the center of the table. Having finished breakfast and her second cup of coffee, she was in an expansive mood. “How much did you win?” she asked her companion at the table on her right.
“I won $3.50,” Adele Stevens replied, taking a sip of her coffee and savoring its flavor.
“I won $2.50,” George Estes volunteered from the other end of the table, ” but my partner won $8.00. He won the blackout game.”
“I remember one time last year when I won the blackout game. I won $9.00.” This from Vera Combs, not to be outdone.
“I wish they would come more often,” Tippy Patterson, at the next table spoke wistfully.
Others at breakfast began to be heard from as the last of the meal was consumed. The prize amounts varied–but the joy on the wrinkled faces was the same. Instead of staring apathetically at their food, their eyes blazed with triumph and the glow would linger for days.
Yes, they still face long hours of gazing at snapshots of loved ones, if there are loved ones. Some sit with ghostly shadows dancing in the twilight of their rooms, dusting off the things on their own memory shelves, reliving the past. But the loneliness loses part of its sting, because they know the Hub Lions Club members will soon visit again.
Seeing the transformation in the faces of these senior citizens and knowing they have a part in that change, the members of the Lubbock Hub Lions Club realize that they, actually, are the winners.