JACKSONVILLE — Bingo has been added to this year's line-up of Tomato Fest entertainment, helping raise funds for another city-wide event held each summer: the annual Back to School Fair.
“The idea was to find another source of income to provide school supplies and uniforms for kids needing them,” said Father Mark Kusmirek, chairman of the Back to School Fair committee.
“In the past years, people have been very generous, but we know there's an even greater need now, and because of that, we are trying be creative in how to raise funds.”
According to www.txbingo.org, the official site of the Charitable Bingo Operations Division of the Texas Lottery Commission, bingo – “the oldest form of legalized gambling in Texas” – is approved by voter referendum in all or part of 226 of the state's 254 counties, with 1,227 nonprofit or charitable organizations conducting games during 2011 and generating more than $29 million from charitable bingo proceeds.
“The people with the state have been unbelievably helpful,” said the priest, who applied for a one-time license through Our Lady of Sorrows Church. “Bingo is permitted by the state, but counties have the option to opt out; Cherokee County does not permit bingo except in Precinct 4, and that started literally with the VFW, because they ran bingo at some point.”
A Back to School committee member suggested a bingo fundraiser held in conjunction with the Tomato Fest, said Chamber of Commerce president Peggy Renfro. The Chamber is sponsoring both today's festival and the Aug. 5 school fair.
“We're breaking ground for our 30th Tomato Fest anniversary,” she laughed, adding that people have been enthusiastic about news of the game. “It's something different.”
Auctions will begin at 10 a.m., with bingo to follow until 1 p.m. at the Norman Activity Center, with a variety of donated prizes. An estimated 30 donated items – among them gardening items, hardware, baby items and art by school children and other local artists – will be up for bid by Billy Bateman, a local auctioneer.