VFW post party hub for seniors, disabled

Gail Barter calls the tiny, silver angel medal, which she regularly places at one corner of her bingo cards, her good luck charm.

While it didn’t bring the 77-year-old Barter much luck during the Sept. 10 Veterans of Foreign Wars Senior Bingo and Birthday Party, she said she’ll keep bringing it with her just about everywhere she goes.

“It’s traveled around the world,” she said. “Folks walk by and rub it for luck.”

Barter said her real luck came in 2006 when, having evacuated from Empire in Plaquemines Parish to Gonzales the day before Hurricane Katrina, she found the gang that attends the VFW bingo parties.

Friends Diane and John LeBlanc, whom Barter calls her adopted family, said they rarely miss a VFW bingo party and always make sure Barter is there, too.

VFW Post 3693 and its Auxiliary unit host the monthly party for seniors and people with disabilities.

“It’s like a big family,” said Adeline Guedry, a party volunteer and auxiliary member.

With a budget of $100, the auxiliary members get door prizes and award $5 to the winners of each game. The parties, chaired by Gertie Savoy, are held the second Monday of each month and all residents 60 and older or anyone with a disability is invited.

The auxiliary members, usually the wives of veterans, bake cakes to serve after the group sings “Happy Birthday To You” to those celebrating birthdays.

Many of those in attendance are in their 70s and 80s and some need walkers and canes to get around.

But, many in the crowd said they never miss a VFW senior bingo party.

“We’re always here,” John LeBlanc said. “It’s marked on our calendar. What else are we going to do?”

LeBlanc was having a lucky day: he won one of the bingo games.

While the old-fashioned bingo cards are an important part of the day, Barter and Dianne LeBlanc said the day is really about friendship and fun.

In addition to celebrating recent birthdays, the group acknowledges wedding anniversaries.

During the September party, held at the VFW post hall in Gonzales, Lois Achord prepared to distribute more prize money as the seniors finished their birthday cake.

“If I stand here (at the back of the long room), I know they’re be winners at the front,” Achord said.

At the Sept. 10 session, bingo caller Mabel Felps carefully pulled each bingo ball out of the hopper and made the call: “under the B, 2.”

Those who have trouble hearing can view the numbers on television screens around the room or take a gander at the giant board highlighting each number called.

After playing several bingo games, Felps announced it’s time for blackout and the winning pot is $20.

Bingo players, who each get two free cards, oohed and aahed as the prize was announced.

In the back of the room, auxiliary member Ruth “Toni” Babin had a secret.

“It’s really a $30 prize,” she whispered.

Charlie Bishop was glad to hear about the prize money after he produced the only winning blackout card.

A player wins at blackout bingo when all numbers on his card have been marked.

The auxiliary members clean up the tables, return the cake pans to their owners and shuffle out with the other players.

“We’ll do it all again next month,” bingo volunteer and veteran Frank Corrent said.