The letters are S-C and the number is $1.5 million. That’s how much money the Smith-Cotton Athletic Booster Club has raised through its Saturday bingo games since they started in the mid-1980s.
The sessions also include “horse racing” pull tabs at 4 p.m., with the bingo itself starting at 6 p.m. A concession stand is also available. Everyone 18 and older is welcome to attend.
After about 15 years in the UPS building and about 10 years before that at the old J.C. Penney building downtown, the booster club has been in Smith-Cotton Junior High School’s old cafeteria for the last four weeks. Although it’s slightly smaller than the UPS building, it still is big enough for the roughly 120 players who compete each week.
The big benefit to switching sites is that the monthly rent dropped from $2,000 to $1,000.
“The other one was a little bigger,” said club president David Paul, who’s son, A.J., is a junior on the Tigers baseball team. “Here, they’re still using the sides for storage and we’re still working out some of the kinks, but overall I think things are going well. ... Most people know where this is because they went to school here. This used to be the Smith-Cotton cafeteria.”
However, being a Smith-Cotton graduate is by no means a requirement of being a bingo regular.
“Bingo is their entertainment for Saturday night,” Paul said of the regulars. “If you go out and do something else, you’re going to spend $40 doing it anyway.”
Terry Sutton, of Stover, has been coming to the Saturday bingo games for about five years, in part because she couldn’t find bingo in Stover and in part because she likes how the booster club runs the games. Now she supports both the Bulldogs and the Tigers.
“And I know that most of the proceeds now, instead of going to rent, is going to the kids to help them out,” said Sutton, who also brings her mom and a Cole Camp friend to bingo night. “And I know a lot of the people that come here. It’s kind of like family.”
One bingo card (featuring six games on it) costs $15, and it’s good for all 16 rounds. A player can also purchase a second card for $10, which means they have to keep track of 12 games at once. Winners of each round get $100 and there’s also a special progressive pot that currently stands at $5,200; Paul thinks it will be won before the end of the year. The games pay out $4,000 weekly.
“You come with the hopes to win, but if you come with the expectation of winning, that’s silly,” Sutton said. “So you take your chances, and if you win, that’s a bonus.”
The booster club doesn’t flat-out give money to the various athletic teams — it makes them earn it by running the concession stand. Because workers must be at least 18 years old, coaches and parents of a specific team run the stand each week and receive $600 for their work.
“This week is volleyball, so the coaches from volleyball get 13 parents and coaches to come in and work, so that’s why they get $600,” Paul said on Saturday. “Everybody has to participate to reap the benefits of what we do. Those funds go to their team to cover costs of buying volleyballs and that sort of thing. Basketball teams and the other winter sports will start coming in soon.”
Additionally, the club donates money to help pay for major projects for the Smith-Cotton athletic program. Past examples include the lights at Jennie Jaynes Stadium and the facility on the junior high campus that was formerly the wrestling gym and is currently the weight room.
The big project on the radar is a football stadium on the new campus.
“We donated a quarter million toward the new stadium out at the new high school, but with this economy it’s on hold,” Paul said. “Smith-Cotton needs a new track; the one we have is horrible. If they were ever able to do a new stadium, I guarantee it would get a lot more use than people think — band could use it, and you’d never have a rainout because rain doesn’t matter on artificial turf. I don’t know when any of this will happen. If we do a football stadium, it won’t be from public funds; it’ll have to be from donations.”
And the booster club is always looking for people willing to donate their time. The club is split into four teams that rotate through a four-week cycle.
“There are actually many people on the booster club whose kids have already graduated and they’re still helping out,” Paul said. “We’re just looking for good people. It actually is fun; it’s not a lot of work. It’s giving up a Saturday every four weeks.”
Anyone interested in joining the booster club can call Paul at 221-4156.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Smith-Cotton Athletic Booster Club bingo
WHEN: 4 p.m. (pull-tab games), 6 p.m. (bingo) every Saturday
WHERE: Smith-Cotton Junior High old cafeteria, 312 E. Broadway Blvd., Sedalia