TITUSVILLE, Fla. – Many churches and nonprofits with a mission to help the less fortunate struggle to pay for those services.
But one Brevard County ministry has found a unique way to fundraise.
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When LifePointe Ministries decided to build a community, they started with those most in need.
Some would say that was a gamble, but so is how they help pay for it.
Every Monday night, the church hosts bingo at the Titusville Civic Center, a building the church purchased in 2017 with the intent of keeping it a multi-purpose venue.
Pastor Royce “Scooter” Morrison said community service was always part of the plan.
“We decided that we wanted to be a church that if the door’s closed, we would be missed,” Morrison said. “We decided that having a building that the community could use was far more important than having a church building.”
Every Thursday night, church volunteers host a pot luck dinner and the community is invited. They call it the Thursday Table. Many of those in attendance are homeless, others are just getting by.
“We have folks living in cars, vans and campers,” Morrison said. “We have at least five families, that come here weekly, they have a home but can’t keep the power or water on.”
A meal is provided, a charging station is set up for phones, nonprofit partners are on hand to help with job placement and there are even portable showers for those who need them.
“I get to be out front but it’s the amazing people in the green shirts that do it all,” said Morrison, looking over his shoulder at the team of volunteers serving food. “The people who come and support and those who send in donations.”
Connie Morales sat and enjoyed some French toast as part of the evening’s breakfast-themed dinner.
Morales moved down from Pennsylvania a year ago to be closer to family. She said there was a falling out and now she’s on her own and struggling to make ends meet. She added she often sleeps nearby in a tent.
“I get hungry,” Morales said. “Sometimes this is the only meal in my day.”
Morales said she also enjoys meeting new people at the Thursday gatherings.
A few tables away, Lynne Gordon listened to the worship leader sing and play guitar. Gordon, 79, lives in a home nearby.
She said her retirement savings didn’t last as long as she hoped.
“I come here and it helps me a lot,” Gordon said. “Inflation has hit, your friends die and now my car has gone away too. I had a game plan. Plan A,B,C and Z. I’m running out of miracles now.”
Gordon praised “Scooter” and all the volunteers.
“These people work with their hearts and hands,” she said. “They serve and they do it joyfully and gratefully.”
What Gordon didn’t know is that Monday night bingo games help make all this possible. Sure, volunteers provide most of the food, but Morrison said 30% to 40% of the operating cost comes from revenue raised by their weekly games.
“We couldn’t do this at the level we do without that Monday night piece,” Morrison said.
And it almost didn’t happen.
The civic center used to host bingo games regularly but that ended years ago. All the equipment, however, was left in the building when it was sold. It sat in a back room for years.
“We would get calls every week from people asking when we were going to start bingo back,” Morrison recalled. “Then we were sitting in a meeting talking about how to raise funds for what we do and literally the two ideas just jumped in the boat together. We have bingo supplies and we can do fundraisers and the community wants it. That’s how it happened.”
Morrison dusted off the equipment and placed signs by the road welcoming people to the revived bingo games.
Morrison said this new version is low-key. And if he’s calling the numbers, he tries to joke around.
“They say we’re the funnest group in town,” he added. “We don’t get too wrapped up in the seriousness of it.”
Annette Brown is a regular. Like so many playing, she has a few lucky charms on the table in front of her and a crossword puzzle to chip away at if the game gets slow.
“It’s kind of like a fun night out,” said Brown, adding that she’s glad the money goes toward a good cause. “Scooter has been doing so much for so long. I wanted somebody to spotlight him because I wanted people to see that average people can make a big difference.”
Morrison and the Thursday Table are getting results. The ministry feeds 80 to 90 people a week.
Morrison said the bingo equipment is from the ‘80s, and it’s showing its age, but as long as there’s a need, the games will go on.
“Every time one of these folks takes a dauber and uses their hand to cover a bingo number, they have no idea the hand that they’re allowing us to reach out in our community,” he said. “I get motivated when I look around this room. I see lives that are absolutely different than they were when they first came here. I get motivated by people being changed and transformed by love.”
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