TRURO – When the Truro and District Lions TV Bingo returns to the air on Sept. 6 after a summer hiatus, it will be for one broadcast only.
Along with the program’s regular prizes, the $2,900 jackpot will be given away during the final game, and the familiar voices of Lions Bucky, Chuck, Jim, and Mona will be heard no more over the Wednesday night airwaves on Eastlink television.
Truro Lions TV Bingo began broadcasting in 1977, with Lions on camera in their yellow vests, changing the board by hand as each number was called. Eventually, a studio was set up at the Lions hall and electronic equipment purchased to facilitate the broadcast. For three decades, the weekly fundraiser was the mainstay of Truro Lions, allowing the club to provide valuable assistance to seniors, children, and youth, as well as to disabled and disadvantaged populations in Truro and Colchester County. Ten years ago, recognizing that current revenue wasn’t able to provide the level of community service it once had, the club introduced a weekly radio bingo program.
“For a few years, we were thrilled to be able to give more to the community,” said bingo chairperson Barbara Urquhart, “but in 2015, realizing both radio and TV bingo were in trouble, we had to make some changes.”
Most of those adjustments involved internal cost-cutting, but one measure the club regrets having to take was elimination of outsourcing bingo envelope stuffing to a local charitable organization.
“We hated to withdraw the support we were giving them,” Urquhart explained, “but it was necessary for our own survival.”
As a result, radio bingo has experienced a turnaround, but its TV counterpart is still struggling to meet expenses, and has no profit to share with the community. Steadily rising card and envelope costs, accompanied by a decline experienced across Canada in cable TV subscribers, could no longer be ignored. Several months ago, in efforts to boost sales, the club placed colourful new signs in vendor windows, and Eastlink launched a series of on air promotions, but neither resulted in a significant increase in players. At a special meeting in July, club members, facing some hard decisions regarding the future of TV bingo, regretfully decided that it was time to let it go.
“It’s not a change we take lightly,” commented David Sullivan, president of Truro & District Lions Club. “We hope players will understand it is something we have to do.”
“In a way,” Urquhart added, “our bingos are not just fundraisers, but also a service to community members who can’t get out to other venues. We have loyal players who welcome that hour of recreation each week, whether they win or not. We didn’t want to take their fun away from them, which is one reason we’ve kept it going as long as we have.”
She also expressed appreciation to the vendors throughout Truro and Colchester County who have generously sold cards on behalf of the club over the years, and to Eastlink TV, which has been a long-term partner in the venture.
Truro & District Lions Club, which has 28 members, is part of Lions Clubs International, the largest service organization in the world, and has served the Truro and Colchester communities for 71 years.