, Salem, MA

April 1, 2014

Letter: St. James bingo will be missed

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

April 9 will be an end of an era in Salem. It will be the last Wednesday night the St. James Hall will be bustling with activity, numbers will be called and “bingo” will be excitedly proclaimed. I have been lucky enough to be a volunteer at St. James bingo for six years. What started out as an obligation for school tuition vouchers has turned into a cherished weekly activity. The three volunteers who have run the bingo since the 1990s, Rich, Marcel and Kathy, have created the best-run bingo on the North Shore. An average of 200 players from all walks of life gather under one roof weekly to enjoy a night out, socialize and hope they hit the jackpot. They line up their lucky charms at their seats; some have religious charms, pictures of dearly departed, and random rocks and trinkets. Each player is unique.

I have become so close to some of them. I have been to their wakes, get concerned when they are not there, notice when they have their hair done. I love making them smile, and I cried with them when the closing was announced. They loved it when I was pregnant with my daughter and I waddled up and down the aisles. They now treat my 5-year-old girl like their own grandchild. The wonderful people I volunteer with have become my family, and we are the best team around.

The new church collaborative and finance committee in this city have changed things for the worse, and it is driving us all away. The bingo is NOT about the Catholic Church to me. It is about the people and the social service we provide to those who look forward to their night out. It is about the sense of community that is disappearing more and more every day in this society.

Thank you Rich Julien, Marcel Nadeau and Kathy Luongo. Thank you for letting me be part of your team, and thank you to all the players I cherish. I will miss you more than you know.

Amy McKeehan

Salem, MA