By Conrad Dudderar
“It’s time to start bingo again,” Joanne Oltmanns says.
The longtime director of Yukon’s non-profit home meal delivery service is spreading the word to all bingo players who want to have fun while supporting a worthy cause.
Yukon Mobile Meals’ monthly “Bingo Night” is getting ready to resume.
With the City of Yukon’s COVID-19 emergency restrictions lifted, supporters of the weekday lunch program have marked their calendars for Thursday, May 6. Bingo starts at 6:30 p.m. inside the Dale Robertson Center, 1200 Lakeshore.
The monthly Bingo Night had become a wildly popular benefit – attracting average crowds exceeding 100. Record-high turnout was around 140 people.
But COVID-19 abruptly halted the event in spring 2020.
Bingo players are popping their buttons with word the fun fundraiser will return in just a few weeks.
“People are ready to get back out and do some things!” said Oltmanns, who’s been Yukon Mobile Meals’ director for decades. “It really helps and ‘fills in the gap’ for those who can’t afford to pay for the meals.”
The first Thursday of each month is designated for Bingo Night to support Yukon Mobile Meals.
“For our first Bingo Night back, we’re going to have some nice door prizes in between games; the main prize will be worth $50,” Oltmanns said. “We play nine games total. Eight games pay out $25 to each bingo winner; if there are multiple winners, they split the money.
“The last game is called a ‘black-out’, and the winner gets $50.”
Attendees of the May 6th Bingo Night will enjoy fresh pizza as the concessions.
Bingo cards are $3 each; with four-card packs for $12 to play these games. Daubers are provided.
“Masks will be optional,” Oltmanns explained. “We respect anybody who wants to wear one, but the mandate (for city buildings) has been lifted. That’s why we’re returning.
“We closed in March and tried to reopen in October. We played once but the mask mandate was hard to enforce with that many people.”
Taking turns as bingo callers are City of Yukon employees Jason Beal and Casey Barnett.
“They compete against each other to be the funniest,” Oltmanns said. “It’s very entertaining.”
Bingo Night is a family event and children are welcome.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
For 46 years, Yukon Mobile Meals has provided nutritious weekday lunches to elderly, disabled and convalescing homebound Yukon residents unable to prepare their own meals.
Since the program does not receive government funding, there are no age restrictions.
The average number of meal recipients peaked at 130 during the heart of the pandemic.
“The need is out there,” Oltmanns said.
“It’s beginning to go back down. This was the first week it’s been below 120.”
Some 110 people are enrolled in the program, which is 25-30 above the pre-pandemic daily average.
Although Yukon Mobile Meals missed out on a full year of Bingo Night fundraisers, the program has continued to provide recipients with nutritious hot meals.
“We did not have any financial issues through the pandemic because we have very kind people in Yukon who made nice donations that kept us afloat,” Oltmanns explained. “That’s probably going to slow down as things get back to normal, so it’s time to start bingo again.”
Volunteers deliver meals to recipients’ homes between 10:45 a.m. and noon Monday through Friday (except holidays).
More volunteers are needed.
“We lost so many, and our volunteer base is about half what it used to be,” Oltmanns shared. “We now have about 50 people who are actively volunteering, where we used to have 100 or more.
“We’re accomplishing the same thing with fewer volunteers; they’re just giving more hours. Definitely we can use more volunteers.”
Mobile Meals’ drivers who previously helped every other week have stepped up efforts and now volunteer weekly.
Yukon Mobile Meals’ cook and kitchen helpers prepare daily lunch meals consisting of an entrée, vegetable and fruit. No specialized menu is offered but low-fat, low-sodium meals are preferred.
Dessert is typically provided two to three times weekly.
“We have a lot of volunteers who will furnish desserts,” Oltmanns said.
But Mobile Meals does more than provide nutritious hot meals.
The program’s volunteers extend care by serving as a regular “check-in” with each recipient, helping them sustain independence and enhance their quality of life.
Suggested donation is $2 per meal. However, those who cannot pay will not be denied.
“We depend on donations to run the program,” Oltmanns said.
Yukon Mobile Meals, a 501c3 nonprofit, only serves people who live inside Yukon city limits. People seeking home-delivered meals outside the City of Yukon are referred to other resources.
Yukon Mobile Meals was started in April 1975 by Charlotte Novak and Jean Claire Lawson, who spearheaded the effort through Church Women United.
Since 1997, the program has been housed inside the Dale Robertson Center. It previously was at the Yukon Community Center.
For more information, call 350-5900 or visit www.yukonmobilemeals.com