SMOKING BAN Bingo gamers seek way to comply

The Lions Club has hosted the bingo games in Lordstown for 30 years.
LORDSTOWN -- Worried that attendance at the weekly bingo games would drop off in light of a pending smoking ban at the site, members of the Lions Club of Lordstown looked to the regular players for input.
"We gave questionnaires to all the players asking how they wanted to see it handled," said Bob Johnston, secretary of the Lions Club. "But we didn't get two answers that were the same."
In May, village council approved a smoking ban in all village buildings, which would have been enacted immediately after passage of the ordinance.
But after hearing concerns of residents, especially Lions Club members, council agreed to postpone the start date of the ban to Oct. 1.
That gave Lions Club members time to figure a new path for the games, which take place every Friday night in the administration building on Salt Springs Road.
But that new path, Johnston said, is still a little up in the air.
Numerous suggestions
"We've heard suggestions on everything from taking longer intermissions to having Lions Club members play the sheets while players go outside to smoke," he said.
Right now, the most viable option is to start the games a little earlier than the current 7:30 p.m., and take longer breaks between some of the games, Johnston said.
But, he noted, even that isn't sitting well with some of the regulars.
"We've already heard from two ladies who have been weekly regulars for almost 15 years [who] don't think it will work for them," Johnston said. "They said they will try it the first night and see how it goes from there."
Civic programs
The Lions Club, a fraternal organization of local business people dedicated to improving their communities through civic programs, has hosted the bingo games in Lordstown for the past 30 years, Johnston said. It is the organization's largest fund-raising activity; proceeds are used for several projects in the village, including buying eyeglasses for the needy and awarding scholarships to graduating high school seniors.
"Some groups do one or two big fund-raisers each year, but this is what we do, and we do it every week," Johnston said. "It's something we're very proud of."
Lions Club members staff the weekly games on a volunteer basis.
In the past 30 years, Johnston said, the group has raised more than $300,000 to benefit the village and its residents.
"We have a list of people we've helped that's as long as your arm," Johnston said.
It's the biggest reason, he said, the organization can't afford to lose any players at the weekly bingo games.
Johnston said club members are aware that the nonsmoking games might attract a new crop of players. He said at least one woman has told him she has a group of friends willing to play, but not as long as there is smoking still allowed.
But, Johnston added, the Lions Club wants to do everything it can to hold on to its current list of regulars.
"As long as there's a dollar out there to be made to help someone else, we are going to work for it," he said. "We'll get through this one way or another."

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