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Group staging bingo game to help cemetery

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POSTED December 9, 2008 8:45 p.m.
The Assyrian-Armenian Cultural Center, a nonprofit organization, is reaching out to the embattled East Union Cemetery.
The group, which holds weekly bingo fund-raisers at the FESM Hall in Manteca, is dedicating its Wednesday, Jan. 7 bingo game to help in the maintenance of the historic pioneer cemetery.
“We’ve heard about the cemetery and what’s going on there. Then one of our customers was wondering if, maybe, we can make a donation. And we said, there’s a way we can generate even more money for them by having a free bingo night, and whatever money we make we’ll give it to them,” said George Khanishian, vice president of the Assyrian-Armenian Cultural Center or AACC.
“This is just an extra bingo (night) for us. Our volunteers are ready. The hall is ready. We’re even planning on having free food there to bring in more people. The more people coming in, the better,” he said.
“Even if they don’t play bingo, we want them to come in. Instead of paying $25 to play bingo, maybe they can drop a $10 donation. FESM is giving us the hall free,” Khanishian said.
Established in 2005, AACC  has members “from all over the place,” he said.
“We have members in Manteca, Modesto, Turlock, and as far south as Los Angeles.”
He did not have the exact number of members because “we always members signing in,” but they are in the hundreds, maybe even up to a thousand, Khanisian said.
To raise money for their scholarship program, they started  holding bingo games every week at the FESM Hall in Manteca.
“We’ve been there for almost three years now. Unfortunately, because of the economy, we’re just playing once a week. It’s a rough time right now. But we hope to go back to two nights a week in the summer,” Khanishian said.
For now, they have bingo every Tuesday with doors opening at four p.m. and the games starting at 6:30 p.m. and lasting until 10 p.m.
Cash prizes given away depends on the size of the crowd that evening; however, they generally range from $150 to $250.
“Once a month, we have a free dinner. We’re trying to do that two nights a month,” Khanishian said.
On regular game nights, they have a concession stand where guests can buy nachos, candy bars, hot dogs and drinks, but no hard liquor.
“That’s not allowed by law,” Khanishian said. Players have to be at least 18 years of age, and that’s also according to California law, he said.
Proceeds from these bingo games are used by AACC to award scholarships to high school seniors who are going to college.
“We give away small scholarships, anywhere from $500 to $1,000. Our award goal is to do at least 10 scholarships (a year),” Khanishian said.
Scholarship recipients don’t have to be related to children or relatives of AACC members, he added.
Asked why they decided to help the historic cemetery in Manteca, Khanishian simply said, “We’re part of the community, too. That’s what we are here for. We’ve even offered to help out physically to clean the cemetery. We figured we’d give them a hand.
Bill Good, the president of the cemetery association board, said they received the phone call from the organization offering their help back in October. Prior to that, they have never heard about the Assyrian-Armenian Cultural Center, he said.
“All proceeds (from the bingo) will go to the cemetery which is fantastic,” Good said.
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