Calling time

Final bingo called at Holy Eucharist Parish after 76 year run

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After numerous numbers, countless calls, and lots of little ducks et al, the last bingo card has been marked at the Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church.

For more than three-quarters of a century, the Elmwood-based church has been holding volunteer-run bingo sessions, which grew to become a popular gathering place for congregation members and community members alike.

Now, owing to a number of factors, including the impact of the pandemic and the loss of many hardworking volunteers, the weekly Tuesday night bingo sessions have come to an end. The last-ever session took place on Oct. 31 (an anomaly, being a Monday) and attracted a packed house.

Photo by Simon Fuller

From left: Georgina Leschyshyn (on the other side of the counter), Lillian Deptuch and Janice Sutton pictured in the kitchen at the Holy Eucharist Parish Centre on Oct. 31.

“We gave it a very good send-off,” said Carlene Deptuch, Holy Eucharist’s office administrator and key organizer, the day after about 170 visitors lined up to daub their cards at the church’s parish centre at 460 Munroe Ave. for the final time. To add to the flavour, attendees with an appetite for the occasion were also eligible for a free hot dog, an invitation which many duly accepted.

Deptuch, who lives in Elmwood, believes part of the popularity of bingo is rooted not only in thrill of winning the pot, but also the communal element that it fosters when people get together.

“It’s a community event. People get to come out and participate, which means they’re not sitting t home by themselves,” Deptuch said. “There’s also that adrenaline rush when you have just one number left to get. Lots of bingo players are serious about their game.”

Deptuch said it’s sad the bingo sessions are ending, but it’s partly a sign of the times. If the volunteer base was wobbling prior to 2020, COVID-19 was a sucker punch.

“I think COVID didn’t help us. Our volunteer base was elderly to begin with, and it’s been incredibly hard to come back from what’s happened in the last two years,” Deptuch said, noting some volunteers are still understandably hesitant to be among big crowds.

“Plus, before — lots of the ladies were stay-at-home moms, and now there’s not always the same opportunities to volunteer, as people have changing lifestyles and there are lots of two income households. For me, I grew up with bingo and have known it all my life, so it’s sad to see it go. In the eighties, I remember bingo halls being blue with smoke. Plus, it’s kind of in our culture as Ukrainians. Back then, people didn’t have so many TV channels, so the bingo became more of a community event.”

In Deptuch’s case, bingo would appear to be in her blood. Her mother, Lillian Deptuch, has been a longtime bingo night volunteer at the church for about two decades, and is currently the kitchen manager.

“This has been for our community,” Lillian said during the final session on Oct. 31.

“On a regular Tuesday night, we’d serve food, including perogies, which people love.”

Lillian, who also lives in Elmwood, said one of the pleasing things about the bingo nights has been seeing different generations come together.

“Sometimes, the whole family comes together,” she said, noting her grandson used to call the bingo from time to time, as did she.

“A good job has been done in this canteen through all these years. That’s what keeps you going. I’ve made some great friends and got to know some great people.”

Simon Fuller

Simon Fuller
Community Journalist

Simon Fuller is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. Email him at simon.fuller@canstarnews.com or call him at 204-697-7111.

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