Google Street View of the North Rustico Lions Club
NORTH RUSTICO - Residents in North Rustico have said goodbye to a charitable social tradition dating back more than 40 years.
The North Rustico Lions Club held its final bingo earlier this month, marking the end of the game in an area where it once thrived.
Club president Bob Briehl said the game, which used to draw more than 150 players in every week, has seen attendance dwindle over the past decade.
While part of that is from an aging population, Briehl said some of the area’s bingo players now travel to Charlottetown for the game.
“We tried to keep it alive as much as possible by changing games and following the players’ wants and needs, but we couldn’t keep up with what the bingos in town were doing,” he said. “We feel sorry for the real loyal ones who don’t go to town, those are the ones who are complaining the least about it... the ones who are our regulars said they saw it coming. The ones who complain the most weren’t always here.”
Longtime club member Edwin Doiron said the community used to see four popular bingos held every week.
“That was 35 years ago and everyone made good money,” said Doiron.
Giles Gallant, a member for more than 40 years, can even remember the buzz from when the first Lions Club bingo was organized in 1972.
It’s going to be a change, a change for the community more than anything. Giles Gallant
“I was working it, at that time it was all through volunteers,” said Gallant. “It’s going to be a change, a change for the community more than anything.”
While the funds raised from the game traditionally went towards helping within the community, holding it every week is now costing the non-profit group money.
While it still draws in about 50 to 60 people every week, the club needs to bring in at least 80 players just to cover the costs of prizes and paying individuals to organize the door and call the game.
The club would be paying about $5,000 a year just to keep the game going.
Member Peter Gallant said for many players, the night wasn’t even about the prizes.
“It was more to go and have a social night out,” he said. “We’re kind of hoping we can come up with some other ideas of something else we can do on Sunday evenings.”
Briehl said while the club is exploring those options, it’s unclear what the future will hold.
“For the moment, it’s up in the air. We’re looking for ideas, maybe get the Lionettes involved and see if they have any ideas,” he said. “We can also put it out to the public to see if they have any on what they’d like to do.”