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'Tots' drive kicks off with a little B-I-N-G-O

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | November 21, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Every so often, there was a cheer — or a groan of dismay — after the bingo number was called.

However, win or lose, there were smiles aplenty as the Sandpoint Lions kicked off the club's annual Toys for Tots drive with two nights of Turkey Bingo.

So many people turned out Friday night — more than 130 people — that players were gathered around the piano and leaning against the wall after all of the tables filled up. The action was equally brisk on Saturday, with two rows of tables filling Community Hall, gradually filling and emptying as bingo players came and went throughout the day.

Lions Club president Janice Rader said her favorite part of Turkey Bingo is seeing the families gathered together to play together, from the very young to moms and dads to grandparents.

"It's just amazing," Rader said. "It's a family event, and something the kids can have fun playing bingo. I love watching the kids learn how to play bingo."

Janelle Schramm said there is a nostalgia in coming out to play Turkey Bingo, having come to the games when she was her daughters' ages. 

"Fun and family," she said as daughter Brooke chimed in, pointing across the table to other family members. "They invited us."

She said the family enjoys supporting the Lions Club's Tots for Tots campaign, knowing it will help make Christmas merry for area youngsters.

"The memories," Schramm said. "There's a nostalgia to playing. My grandma was a regular bingo player."

Daughters Brooke and Khloe said that coming to play turkey bingo is fun.

Funds raised during the annual campaign go to purchase new toys for area children — or gift cards for older youth — who live in the Lake Pend Oreille School District. Every Christmas, the Lions help almost 1,000 area children, from Sandpoint to Clark Fork and all points in between.

In addition, the Lions give a gift card to a local grocery store so that families can get supplies for their Christmas dinner.

The Lions started taking applications earlier this month, and demand for the program is already well above last year's total, with 100 more applications submitted during the first week than in 2022.

Because of that demand, the Lions opted to raise the goal for the community Christmas drive — something the club has debated for several years. Instead of $50,000 as in years past, the goal for this year’s Toys for Tots campaign is $75,000 — due to the number of people needing help.

"The need is greater this year, and we don't want any child not to get a Christmas present," she said.

The Lions make the most of the money by bargain shopping and with the assistance of generous local businesses. 

In addition, the Cedar Hills Church congregation donates knitted hats, gloves, and quilts to add a personal touch to the Christmas gifts, Rader said.

Rader said the club will have a surprise for the parents to let them know they are supported and cared for as much as their children.

Instances of people taking advantage of the program are rare, Rader said. Instead, the opposite is the case, with many people opting not to participate because they are embarrassed that they need help.

The club is accepting Toys for Tots applications until Dec. 15. Applications are available on the Lions' website, and printed copies are available on the door of the Lions Club, 609 S. Ella Ave.

Donations for Toys for Tots can be dropped off at the front desk at the Bonner County Daily Bee, 310 Church St., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can also drop off donations at Columbia Bank’s Sandpoint branch, 414 Church St., or at the Ponderay branch, 300 Bonner Mall Way; and at the Ponderay Starbucks.

Donations may be mailed to the Sandpoint Lions Club, Box 414, Sandpoint, ID 83864.

Donations made by check are preferred. Be sure to include a note with your check indicating that it is a Toys for Tots donation. If you wish to make an anonymous donation, please mention that in your note.

If the donation is being made in someone’s name, be sure to also include a note.

Information: Sandpoint Lions Club, 208-263-4118, or online at bit.ly/SandpointLions

 

    Brooke Schramm shows a little Thanksgiving style at Saturday's Turkey Bingo fundraiser. The annual event is the traditional beginning of the Lions' annual Christmas drive, Toys for Tots.
 
 
    Khloe Schramm and Kathy Sauer checked to see if their bingo cards have the number called at the Sandpoint Lions' Turkey Bingo fundraiser on Saturday. The annual event is the traditional beginning of the Lions' annual Christmas drive, Toys for Tots.
 
 
    Sandpoint Lions president Janice Rader calls a bingo number at the club's Turkey Bingo fundraiser on Saturday. The annual event is the traditional beginning of the Lions' annual Christmas drive, Toys for Tots.
 
 
    Bingo players check to see if they have the number called as they take part in the Sandpoint Lions Club'sTurkey Bingo fundraiser on Saturday. The annual event is the traditional beginning of the Lions' annual Christmas drive, Toys for Tots.
 
 
    Bingo players check to see if they have the number called as they take part in the Sandpoint Lions Club'sTurkey Bingo fundraiser on Saturday. The annual event is the traditional beginning of the Lions' annual Christmas drive, Toys for Tots.