GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - For the workers, the time for Mardi Gras beads lasts all year long. Sorting and packaging beads is one of several jobs the Benchwork program provides developmentally disabled adults.
Marvin Carpenter of the ARC of the Gulf Coast said, "It's like a workshop. They do games. We try to get them contracts, so they can get paychecks. And it's just a nice way for them to be together."
Officials said the sheltered workshop in Gulfport is the only one in the state that depends entirely on private funds. A few years ago the grants and donations started to dwindle.
"It's been very difficult for us. Funds have pretty much disappeared since Katrina," said Bari Matherne of ARC of the Gulf Coast. "We were doing quite well before Katrina. After Katrina came, it affected all of the dependable funding sources and has forced the board of directors of the ARC to look for other funding sources. One of those is the Bingo that we started."
Every Saturday for more than a year, the ARC of the Gulf Coast has welcomed in Bingo players in hopes of getting the money it needs to keep the doors open. It's a bet that so far is paying off.
Tom Holderer of ARC Of the Gulf Coast said, "It's a win, win. It's both beneficial for our Bingo players and our clients at Benchwork, our shelter workshop, as well."
"This organization has been around for many, many years, and the people who have the disabilities have a place to come during the week," Matherne said. "Also it allows their families to have jobs while they know that they're loved ones are here and being taken care of."
"The Bingo has helped us a lot," said Matherne. "It's not where we want it to be yet, but it's slowly getting there. And we hope in time it will provide the funds that we definitely need to keep this agency in operation."
Bingo at the ARC of the Gulf Coast in Gulfport is Saturday from 10:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. Officials said they are also in need of donations of Mardi Gras beads.