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Bingo is jackpot for charities

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What would you do with a quarter of a million dollars? Volunteers who ran bingo nights with the Mount Vernon Columbus Club had to make that decision after the year-round fundraiser netted $250,000 for charity. They chose to help churches damaged by natural disasters, including the cathedral in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They donated to the Capital Area Food Bank. They put thousands of dollars toward an ultrasound machine for Warrenton Pregnancy Center.

The Columbus Club is the charitable arm of the Mount Vernon Knights of Columbus Council — a group of about 350 men from St. Louis Church and Good Shepherd Church, both in Alexandria. In the past eight years, they have raised more than $1 million for charity through their Friday night and first Sunday afternoon bingo events at the council hall. This year they raised a record amount, said John Dougherty, who served as president of the club during the past fiscal year.

On an average night, around 120 patrons play bingo and buy food and drinks from the snack bar, according to Dougherty. The undertaking is almost entirely volunteer-run.

The Knights held a banquet June 30 to present the money to a few of the dozens of charities they supported this year, such as local parishes, diocesan Catholic Charities Christ House and St. Lucy Project, and the Poor Clares monastery.

“It's just remarkable that a relatively small group (can accomplish this),” said Dougherty. “It’s an absolute honor to witness that and be involved.”

Each hamburger or bingo card purchased funded cans of food for the hungry, or part of a Catholic school teacher’s salary, or brick and mortar to repair a storm-damaged sanctuary. Though they still have a lot of preparations to do, Katherine Adams, executive director of the Warrenton Pregnancy Center, is looking forward to having the ultrasound machine.

“The ultrasound is key to the heart of our mission — we’re here to show women the incredible beauty and dignity and the life of their child,” she said. “We just opened our doors in March, so it’s been amazing the generosity that is being displayed. I feel like we’re being showered.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018