LIVERMORE -- Livermore Valley Charter School has been hosting Sunday bingo nights for eight years, with all profits going directly to supporting the institution.
The Bingo Ranch in the shopping strip at the corner of Pacific and South Livermore avenues hosts the Sunday bingo nights, and A few weeks ago celebrated its anniversary with a full menu of games, as well an Italian dinner and a slew of door prizess. Some 250 people -- including players, parent volunteers and guests who just dropped by to say hello, attended the celebration.
The principal of the kindergarten-through-eighth grade charter school, Tara Aderman, stopped by the event to thank the dozen or so parent volunteers who were running the bingo fundraiser and also the players who support the schools, including Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory, the affiliate high school that opened four years ago.
"Bingo has brought incredible opportunities to our school," said Aderman. "If not for this money, we could have lost a lot of staffing to budget cuts -- including art, music, P.E. and science teachers."
She said bingo funds have helped significantly with the school's technology program as well.
"It's hugely enriched the opportunity to embed technology throughout the curriculum," said Aderman, who describes bingo as the school's biggest fundraiser.
Livermore resident Susan Jackson, 58, said she's been playing bingo since she was 19.
"If it wasn't for this, kids wouldn't have music, field trips or any other extracurricular activities other than just school," said Jackson.
Her friend, Janet Gaudette, whose daughter Sandy Collier ran the Sunday night bingo at the ranch for seven years, said the event raised $2 million for the charter school during that time. Gaudette, from Livermore, doesn't just play to support the charter school.
"I love the people here like my family, and it's fun to play the game and sometimes win money," said Gaudette, who has won the game's biggest haul of $1,199 several times. "It's fun whether you win or not -- but it's more fun to win -- it's the luck of the draw."
Parent volunteer Maria Mancini, whose teenage daughters attend LVCP, oversees some of the business and facility management of The Bingo Ranch.
"The school took over the lease a year ago after renting space for seven years from Buenas Vidas, a charitable organization that ran a group home for teenage boys for many years as well as a thrift store downtown and bingo nights," said Mancini.
Buenas Vidas Youth Ranch, a five-acre horse ranch on Tesla Road in the heart of Livermore Valley wine country, was founded in 1974 but was sold last year due to lack of funding.
After Buenas Vidas went out of business, the charter school stepped in to lease The Bingo Ranch, and has expanded games to four nights a week and made some improvements to the building.
"We repainted the interior, remodeled the bathrooms with new toilets and installed two 70-inch flat screen TVs, which makes it easier for customers -- especially older people -- to see the ball," said Mancini.
Ben Murray, a senior planner with the City of Livermore's Economic Development Department, says the 10,000-square-foot Bingo Ranch building dates back to 1959, when the shopping center was built.
"When it first opened, it was called the Vineyard Shopping Center with Lucky supermarket as its primary anchor on the west end and Sprouse-Reitz where The Bingo Ranch is now," said Murray.
Sprouse-Reitz was a chain of five-and-dime stores. After this five-and-dime closed, Priceless Drugs and later Long's Drugs occupied The Bingo Ranch building.
Murray says the city is reviewing an application from the shopping center's owners to give the whole center a face-lift that would include a new facade throughout, improved landscaping and resurfacing the parking lot.
"It won't have a direct effect on the tenants -- the proposal is focused on improving the look of the center," said Murray.
Mancini said since taking over the lease, the charter schools are trying to bring the hall "up to another level."
"We have customers from as far away as South San Jose, Union City, Manteca and Fremont who bypass other bingo halls to come here," said Mancini. "Over the eight years, we've built a reputation as an honest game with good customer service."
She says the parent volunteers who run bingo nights want to do a good job because they know it's for a good cause -- their kids' education. Parent Paige Kuempel, president of the Choice for Children's Education Foundation -- the fundraising arm of the K-8 charter school -- says bingo nights are a great fundraiser.
"The money from bingo goes directly to make our school programs unique and special -- that's why I volunteer here regularly," she said.
Steve Deselms and his wife, Pat, drive from Pleasanton two or three times a week to play at The Bingo Ranch.
"We go all over to play, but we like to support the charter schools," said Deselms. "It's a step in the right direction as far as schools are concerned."
What: The Bingo Ranch, 3070 Pacific Ave. in Livermore, supporting Livermore Valley Charter School (K-8), 2451 Portola Ave., and Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory (9-12), 3142 Constitution Drive
Sunday -- doors open at 1:30 p.m., games at 4 p.m. Tuesday -- doors open 4:30 p.m., games at 6:30 p.m. Thursday -- doors open 4:30 p.m., games at 6:30 p.m.
Friday -- doors open at 4:30 p.m., games at 6:30 p.m.