According to Canyonlands Care Center Activities Director Dianne Hatch, the weekly games of Bingo are a favorite with the residents, drawing around 10 participants each week.
For more than 50 years, the ladies from Alpha Rho have shown up every week — originally at the long-term care wing of Allen Memorial Hospital, and in the past few years at the new care center — to make sure the game goes on.
“These ladies are a godsend,” Hatch said. “They are so faithful. They’re here every week, with the exception of the week around Christmas and New Years.”
Shirley Brewer, the president of the social sorority’s local chapter, said that four or five women show up to help with the game every week. Many of them have been assisting with Bingo for more than 20 years. They help residents find their seats, arrange their cards, and mark the numbers as they’re called.
“We help the ones who need it,” Bobbie Long said. “Some of them can do it on their own, but others need help.”
Long said she has been taking part in the weekly games since they began. Although she can’t remember exactly when that was, she estimates it was some time in the 1960s.
“It’s been a long time,” she said.
Hatch said the same core group of ladies has been showing up every week for as long as she’s been working at the center.
“They are truly our heroes,” she said.
When the games were started at Allen Memorial, Long said they usually only had one or two residents who would show up to play.
“They wanted us to try and carry on a conversation with them,” she said. “So I tried. They told me to shut up and play Bingo. So I did.”
Brewer estimates that she’s been involved for around 35 years.
“It’s just rewarding to be here with them,” she said. “They have a good time, and that’s what we enjoy.”
“If you enjoy the folks, and spending time with them, you just keep coming,” she said.
Lema estimates that she’s been a part of the group for around 25 years. She calls the numbers every week.
“I guess I got recruited,” she said with a laugh.
By the end of the one-hour session, each resident who plays the game receives a prize.
“Everyone has a bingo before we leave,” Long said.
“It’s called creative calling,” Lema added.
“That’s why she always calls the numbers,” Brewer said.
Each win in a round means a prize for the resident. According to Brewer, Alpha Rho provides all the prizes each week. And they try to tailor them to the individual residents.
“Some of them like jewelry,” Lema said. “Some of them like stuffed animals. Some of them like candy. We have one who likes black licorice.”
“She expects it every week,” Brewer said.
“It’s so much fun,” Shannon Wiggins added.
And through the years, the ladies of Alpha Rho have formed close bonds with many of the residents.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Hatch said. “They’re like family to us.”
She said Bingo is one of the residents’ favorite activities.