Bunco players pass winnings on to the homeless

KEVIN RAUCH/THE EXPRESS A bunco playing group has put together 40 gift bags that they plan to distribute to the homeless just in time for the holidays. The dice playing game held at Toot Gentzyel’s home in North Bend has accumulated just under $800 that they used to fill the bags with hand-made items, food, a Bible and other items. Pictured are just some of the 40-plus regular bunco players.

By KEVIN RAUCH

For The Express

NORTH BEND — Bunco is a dice game that typically needs at least 12 players to play, as players divide up into tables of four. Toot Gentzyel of North Bend has hosted bunco games for as far back as anyone can really remember. Family and friends laugh, yell and certainly compete at least one a month on a Sunday evening in her basement. Years ago they realized that they were so successful that they had an opportunity to help where it may be needed, all coming from a fun night of rolling dice.

Toot explains that an average night of bunco sees 24-30 players parked outside of her house, as some players may miss a game here and there. However, once a year all players are sure to make “Super Bunco,” a night in which at least 40 players are on hand all putting in $10 to see if they can be the lucky winner.

As it turns out, the players aren’t the only ones winning.

A few years back the group decided to take their Super Bunco proceeds and help a local church with an expansion project. Last year they offered a cash donation to the Bucktail Medical Center. This year the group is making a difference in the spirit of the holidays.

With just under $800 in total bunco earnings combined with other donations, the bunco group has put together 40 gift bags for the homeless and several of the bunco players will be distributing the bags in person.

“When we first thought of the idea, everyone thought it was a good thing to do, but we really weren’t sure how to go about it” Toot says of the plan. “Our minister (Doug Conway) runs a lot and he said that he knows where there are homeless in the State College area”.

Pastor Conway is a long distance runner and explained to Toot and other parishioners where he has seen homeless in the State College area on his runs. He will be leading the small group that goes out in search of anyone that may need the timely gift bags.

The bags are designed with the colder weather that winter will inevitably bring and are not simply supplies bought without much thought. In fact, what is in the bags will likely prove rather remarkable to the unsuspecting recipients.

Gail Long knitted neck scarves while Pat Lundfelt crocheted hats. Those recipients that the group run into will also be receiving items such as blankets, pillows, scarves, socks, gloves, Wal-Mart gift cards, snacks, drinks a bible and a bible marker.

When asked how a fun evening of bunco turned into something so meaningful, Toot says that it has just evolved from the game night being so successful.

“We realized years ago that the church needed money and our jackpots on super bunco night were so large, it started there and has just grown” she recalls. “It was my daughter Cathy (Shearer) that suggested helping the homeless and everyone knew right away it was the best thing to do before the holidays”.

In addition to regular bunco contributions from the forty plus players, some players contributed additional items while the players also received help from others in the community. The Red Row Bunco players would like to thank and acknowledge: Linda Eggler, Barb Rauch, Dominion, Wal-Mart, Jeannie Bressler, Joan Rotigliano, Bernie and Betsy Huseth, Donna Poleto, Margaret Hood, Pat Lundfelt, Gail Long, Greg and Tonya Lavanture and Rich and Joy Grenell.

The small group will be taking the bags to the State College area sometime in early December.

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