By Eric Heinz
There’s something uplifting and unifying about the random chance to win at bingo—the name itself is likened to great fortune.
Tina Byrd, a manager at Goody’s Tavern who organizes weekly games, said the San Clemente bar started hosting bingo nights to raise money for local charities and as a way to drum up business on Monday nights, which before then were notoriously slow.
The first night of bingo in late May, Goody’s raised $125, which was used to buy toy dump trucks for a preschool.
“We were keeping it small and simple the first couple of weeks, but as it started to gain momentum, it grew organically into this larger event,” Byrd said. “The past four months we’ve raised over $10,000 for local charities.”
The largest fundraising event Goody’s has done through its bingo night thus far was for The MARSOC Foundation, a nonprofit that supports U.S. Marines, which garnered $1,700 in one night.
Tami Fusco, center, celebrates winning a round of bingo during the Goody’s Tavern charity bingo night. On Oct. 2., the event raised more than $650 for the San Clemente Skatepark Coalition. Photo: Eric Heinz
Tina Byrd, a manager at Goody’s Tavern, emcees the start of the charity bingo night on Oct. 2. Photo: Eric Heinz
Lindsey Snegirev, left, examines her bingo card as Ashely Gibson reacts to just missing out on a chance to win on Oct. 2 at Goody’s Tavern charity bingo night. Photo: Eric Heinz
Paige Fusaro, left, has missed out on only a few charity bingo nights at Goody’s Tavern in San Clemente. Photo: Eric Heinz
“At that point, we realized this was going to be something big, and it’s continued week by week,” Byrd said.
Other organizations have donated raffle prizes for the cause, including a round of golf and airline tickets.
“The type and level of prizes are dependent on the charity and how involved they get with the event,” Goody’s Tavern owner Jennifer Davis said. “With MARSOC, we had military members who were actively wanting to contribute.”
On Oct. 2, the bingo night raised more than $650 for the San Clemente Skatepark Coalition, which is trying to expand the current skateboard parks and add lighting.
Owners Jennifer and Steve Davis provide some of the raffle items along with the donations provided by each charity, which by Byrd’s estimate, probably raise more money than the actual game at $5 per ticket or five tickets for $20. Bingo sheets are $1 each. The owners also donate $1 for every signature gained on a thank you card.
“This community is so bonded even in the bar scene here, and that’s what drives us, the fact that we want to give back,” Byrd said.
More than just raising funds, Jennifer said she’s seen bingo friendships develop since the start of the weekly event.
“I think people are looking for an experience, something to do rather than just sit in a bar and get drunk,” Jennifer said. “We’ve provided an experience for people 21 and over to come in and have something to do. It’s kind of a release for me as a business owner, where the rest of the six days of the week are about facilitating a party and making money.”
She also said the crowd has been diverse, with families, mothers, fathers, etc.
Local resident Paige Fusaro said she had not participated regularly in bingo until she started coming to Goody’s, and she’s only missed a Monday or two because she was out of town.
“I really like the camaraderie and how the town comes out to support a good cause,” Fusaro said.