I’ve heard of strange dreams, but Sherry Plotkin’s takes the cake.
But I’ll let her tell you in her own words. You should know that Plotkin is chair of the Ways and Means Committee of the Woman’s Club of South Pasadena.
That means she is in charge of raising funds.
“I was looking for ideas to help us fund scholarships at the high school, but nothing excited me,” Plotkin said. “Suddenly, at 1 o’clock one morning, I sat up in bed and thought: ‘Bingo.’
“It was like it came to the front of my brain. I was all groggy and just had this thought. It was the weirdest thing.”
And so virtual bingo, sponsored by the Woman’s Club, was born.
Plotkin’s idea has come at an opportune time. The COVID-19 pandemic has robbed the club of the opportunity to make any money from special events, such as its annual fashion show and popular holiday boutique. There has been no one to rent the group’s clubhouse on Fremont Avenue and no monthly meetings that generate funds for club activities.
Plotkin realized that there might be a demand for bingo since South Pasadena High School boosters’ weekly Tiger Bingo games had been halted. She looked online for computer applications that might make the project a reality.
It took two months to get virtual bingo going, but after three weeks of playing, the games have raised about $1,000, according to Plotkin.
“It is so much fun,” she said. “We are really rocking and rolling with this project. It’s terrific.”
Plotkin said up to 30 people per week have been playing, and there is room for up to 100 per night. People have gone online to play from Alhambra and East Los Angeles, and Plotkin’s relatives and friends in Boston and Florida also have joined in the fun.
“During these difficult long days being isolated, playing bingo has been the highlight of the day and has connected me with both family and others,” emailed one player — a Plotkin relative from Venice, Florida.
Marj Tolub from Riverdale, New York, emailed: “It was much fun playing bingo in the middle of this quarantine. It was just the right thing to do to cheer me up with other players.”
The bingo games are on Friday nights from 7-8:30 p.m. Four games will be played each night and the price begins at $15 to buy four cards and $12 for a set of four more. Registration has to be in before that week’s game. Each card has a number that can be checked for a “bingo.”
Zoom is not needed to compete, and a link will be provided.
“We took the best qualities of Zoom and customized the app to where it picks the number; we call it out and a board lights up,” Plotkin said. “Sometimes, we even add sound effects to light things up while calling a number. When someone calls ‘Bingo,’ they give the top number on the card so it can be checked. The card actually pops up in the system so it can show the bingo.
“The app does all the work,” she said.
Not totally. Plotkin’s committee also orders the cards and sends emails to participants. When someone in the committee assigns a card, the app copies the list of who got which card.
The final game of the night produces a pot of up to $130.
To receive additional information and register, people can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (626) 437-6251. There are also registration and information forms on the banner in front of the Woman’s Club at 1424 Fremont Ave.
People are also being asked to contribute to the club’s “Dollars for Scholars” program. Plotkin said that the club has given as many as six scholarships at South Pasadena High School, but the number may necessarily drop this year.
The club, with 67 members, has also made more than 2,000 masks that have been distributed both locally and to Native American reservations in South Dakota and Arizona.
Meanwhile, Tiger Bingo — which provides funds for high school activities — remains shuttered because of the pandemic, and fans await news of its return.
If you have ever been to Tiger Bingo, you know why David Zeiger, booster club bingo president, calls the games a local happening that attracts about 180 people each week. People line up hours in advance of the games and have dinner and socialize before getting serious.
It was played at the high school until the gym needed to be redone and then was moved to the middle school before the pandemic shut it down. Tiger Bingo will return to the gym at some time in the future.
“It’s painful for some of our players. I get calls every week asking when we are going to resume playing,” said Zeiger, who added that he investigated virtual bingo and another form of play, but decided they didn’t capture what Tiger Bingo was all about.
“Right now, we’ll hold our breath, get ready and we’ll reopen. We just don’t know when.”