-by Kerrie Alexander
BINGO is not just a game, it’s a family.
That’s the sentiments of Maryborough’s Paul and Blanche Ninnes – a power couple in the world of hosting bingo on the Fraser Coast.
For the past 32 years Paul has had his eyes down, raising funds for a variety of not-for-profit organisations around region including the Maryborough Racing Pigeon Club and an 18-year stint for the Maryborough and Hervey Bay Endeavour Foundation.
Blanche joined Paul in the bingo calling world about 18 years ago and hasn’t looked back.
The two well-known and much-loved bingo hosts have been calling at the Hervey Bay RSL since 2013, with a crowd of about 180 eager players each time.
The volunteer couple, and a handful of helpers, give their time freely at the RSL bingo each Wednesday solely to raise funds for the Hervey Bay Special School.
Paul and Blanche visited the school seven years ago to see if they could help, and the rest is history.
“I have a grandson in Sydney with autism, and I think that was the reason … we see what our kids go through with him and when they asked us to support the special school, that’s how we got started,” Paul said.
“I went to the special school and saw not so much what they had, but what they didn’t have.
“They had a big room, quite large that they wanted to make into a library, but they didn’t have any chairs, tables or books and we worked on that to get that for them.”
Since then, they have been instrumental in helping to secure many new resources for the school and now have their sights set on bringing a $90,000 sensory garden to fruition.
The special school committee was so appreciative of their support that their resource building is now named after the two, with a dedication plaque on the wall.
As well as the fundraising aspect, Paul said his passion for bingo was because of the players.
“I just love the people,” he said.
“These people become your family and they are not just bingo players, they become part of your life.
“We’ve got a few in nursing homes we make visits to, we see people we recognise (from bingo) at shopping centres and in the street and I often still see endeavour players down the street.”
Paul and Blanche give special thanks to the RSL for the use of Hervey House and support staff, all of which helps keeps funds for the school.
“Over 32 years hosting bingo, we’ve never been happier than we have been here at the RSL.
“It’s just getting up and out of bed early that’s the problem,” he said with a laugh.
With the club now back in action, you can join in the fun of bingo each Wednesday in Hervey House, with eyes down from 10.30am.