Bingo games could save work program for developmentally disabled - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Bingo games could save work program for developmentally disabled

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A local non-profit organization is taking a gamble to save a program that helps the disabled lead more active lives. For decades the Arc of the Gulf Coast has provided jobs for developmentally disabled adults. So when funding got tight, officials say they decided to raise money by holding weekly Bingo games.

The sound of the bouncing balls and the colorful makers are part of what Lillie Roberts says she loves about going to play Bingo.

"It's fun," said Roberts. "It's somewhere to go. Something to do. We don't have anything else to do, so we come play Bingo."

However, in these Bingo games, the Arc of the Gulf Coast hopes to come out the biggest winner. Officials say Benchwork Industries program lost $50,000 in funding at the beginning of the year. Marvin Carpenter is a volunteer.

"Since Katrina, when we lost United Way, we've had to live on yearly grants. They've just dried up, especially ones that we need for operating," Carpenter said. "We have around 20 adults here that we serve. We're trying to keep it open. The only way now that we've found that we think we can keep it open is Bingo."

Benchwork Industries helps retarded and developmentally disabled adults lead productive lives by proving them with jobs and job training. They perform light hand assembly, bulk mail processing, packaging and other tasks.

"This is where they come four days a week," said Carpenter.

Tom Holderer is the announcer. He has seen what the program has meant to his daughter, Sarah. 

"It's been a God-send. We tried some other work situations for our daughter," said Holderer. "This sheltered work shop environment has been so pleasant and so good for her. She is just absolutely a happy little camper and she loves it here. Without Bench works, the world would be a dark world for my daughter."

The Bingo games are every Saturday starting at 11:30 am on Gulf Avenue in Gulfport.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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