Cathie Anderson

Bingo! Big jump in players behind major gift to Boys & Girls Club

Dick and Lynn Gury
Dick and Lynn Gury Gury family

Sacramento Consolidated Charities, a fundraising legacy left to Sacramento by Dick and Lynn Gury, gives roughly $1.25 million annually to regional nonprofits, but earlier this week, the organization made what board Chairman Kevin Beers believes is its largest one-time donation: $200,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Sacramento.

The Gurys’ tale, now a staple of local lore, began more than 45 years ago when their son Larry went home from band practice at John F. Kennedy High School and told his parents that band director Nick Angiulo offered $5 to anyone willing to carry band instruments to games. He was hoping for a student, but Dick Gury volunteered and kept at it for 15 years. But his spirit of giving didn’t stop there.

He eventually looked into the idea of starting charitable bingo games where nonprofit volunteers could earn donations for their favorite causes by donating time to help run the contests. Sacramento Consolidated Charities, which runs Florin Road Bingo at 2350 Florin Road, was born in the late 1970s. Visit today, and you’ll be treated to the sight of a building and shopping center that looks like a throwback to the era of “Saturday Night Fever” and mile-high Afros.

Despite its dated look, Florin Road Bingo is seeing an explosion in business, Beers said, because Sacramento County limited bingo halls under its jurisdiction to payouts of no more than $500 and prohibited some types of games as of this year. The city of Sacramento, however, continues to allow prizes of as much as $1,199 a game for players and has kept popular variations of the bingo game in play.

“Because we’re in the city, the county’s decision didn’t apply to us,” Beers said, “and so people who really liked those games and liked the ability to win more money, they came to us.”

Beers won’t say just how much the unexpected windfall is, but it is much larger than the $200,000 that Sacramento Consolidated Charities will donate to the Boys & Girls Clubs. Sacramento Consolidated Charities also is divvying up $250,000 among its 30-plus affiliated charities, over and above what their volunteers have earned from their work, and the organization set aside some of the funds in a reserve bank account.

“The board wants to be a little on the cautious side because of the proposed tribal casino going down on Grant Line Road and Highway 99,” Beers said. “If that goes through so close to Florin Bingo, it more than likely will significantly impact on our business. … We do have a few years. They’re saying it’s at least three years off before they start construction. Still, it is a concern, so the board, and I think prudently so, reserved more money than they may have without that knowledge.”

While tribal casinos also make charitable contributions, Beers said, the model used by Sacramento Consolidated Charities is unusual because it allows virtually any nonprofit to sign up and raise funds.

“We’re structured so that, if you’re a 501(c)(3) in good standing, and we check that quarterly with GuideStar, then you’re eligible to volunteer at the hall,” Beers said, “and then we assign an hourly rate to the type of position that you’re doing because some positions require much more dedication and way more hours than others. If a charity doesn’t have volunteers, it can make a direct request for funds.”

Because the surplus was so large from the first half of 2016, Beers said, the board recommended that he approach District 8 Councilman Larry Carr for advice on places it could make a one-time donation that would have a greater impact. Carr suggested a couple of options, Beers said, and one of them was the Boys & Girls Clubs.

In an interview in June, local Boys & Girls Clubs CEO Kimberly Key told me that she had been working with Carr to establish a club site at Meadowview’s Shasta Park. Many people know that the Boys & Girls Clubs operates two brick-and-mortar branches – Teichert at 5212 Lemon Hill Ave. and Raley at 1117 G St. The organization also has on-site clubs at juvenile hall, at elementary and high schools in three local school districts, at three continuation high schools in Sacramento County and – for the first time this year – a summer camp in Rancho Cordova.

Key said that the national Boys & Girls Clubs recently designated her organization as a major metro club because its services are needed across a broad region. The designation brings with it increased support from the national office on finding ways to meet demand. The clubs, of course, stress leadership, character development, academic success, career development, healthy lifestyles and the arts, and they boast notable alumni such as Oscar winner Denzel Washington, prima ballerina Misty Copeland and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

“Councilman Carr had earmarked funds because he wanted a Boys & Girls Club out there in Meadowview,” Key said. “We met, and they’re looking to put it in Shasta Park. … We’re going to do three permanent portables out there, and then the idea is that if and when a community center comes, then it’s space we would be able to move into as well.”

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee