Modern Bingo Brings in Players of All Ages

Linda Taylor was working for the state when she had a heart attack in her early 40s.  It was a wake-up call that led her to her dream job managing Society for the Blind’s bingo program at the Grand Oaks Bingo Center in Citrus Heights.

“I was just eating, sleeping and working and needed to get back out into the community,” Linda said. “I had always wanted to be a bingo caller, so I started volunteering.”

Fifteen years after Linda began volunteering at the Grand Oaks Bingo Center in a variety of roles for a couple different nonprofits, she retired from the state and was hired to manage Society for the Blind’s bingo program on Tuesdays and Sundays.

For the last five years, Linda has proudly managed the program that generates more than $650,000 a year to support Society for the Blind’s programs. She is proud to work with Society for the Blind’s bingo supervisor CJ Boggus, whom she refers to as her right hand, to manage the fully electronic game that now brings in a younger crowd in addition to its base of retirees.

-Photo of bingo managers Linda Taylor and CJ Boggus

Linda Taylor and CJ Boggus

“I always thought of bingo as a little old lady game like you see on TV shows,” Linda said. “But bingo has gone from very low tech to high tech. It used to be grandma’s game, but now I’m seeing people in their early 30s coming in.”

Linda notes that for new players, basic bingo is simple to pick up and more experienced players can develop a strategy for more complicated patterns.

For Linda, working at the bingo hall has helped her become more outgoing and gives her a reason to get up in the morning. She said it gives her purpose and makes her feel younger – and she chokes up when she realizes what a difference it makes to people with vision loss who rely on the services at Society for the Blind. She especially loves when she sees clients from Society for the Blind come out to play the game, noting that they usually have three to five blind players each session.

Linda is proud that the players at Grand Oaks Bingo Center are like one big family.

“We’ve seen friendships and marriages made here, and friendly competition between the players,” Linda said. “Most of our customers avoid the big expensive casinos and enjoy coming regularly to our hall so they can see the same faces in their community for a reasonable price.”

At Grand Oaks Bingo Center, basic buy-in is $30, and set payouts for all regular games are $300. Linda notes that it costs at least three times as much to play at casinos. Plus, Grand Oaks offers 20 games where most casinos only offer 12.

New or experienced bingo players interested in supporting Society for the Blind can come to the Grand Oaks Bingo Center to play on Tuesday mornings at 10 a.m. (sales start at 8 a.m.) or on Tuesday and Sunday evenings at 6 p.m. (sales start at 4 p.m.). For more information about Society for the Blind’s bingo program, visit http://grandoaksbingo.com/bingo-information-3/. Those interested in volunteering can contact Linda at ltaylor@societyfortheblind.org.

Linda says it’s a matter of finding a bingo hall you feel comfortable with and a cause you’re passionate about.

“When I come to Grand Oaks for Society for the Blind’s bingo program with players who feel like family, it reminds me that I’m doing something right,” Linda said.