May 10

JETAA Chicago’s Bingo Nights with Japanese Senior Living Facility


JETAA Chicago’s Bingo Nights with Japanese Senior Living Facility

By JETAA Chicago Treasurer Thomas Osugi (Hokkaido, 2005-07)

I believe that one of the missions of JETAA is to volunteer and to help out the community at large. As much as I love eating sushi and singing karaoke, it’s always great when JETAA Chicago can give back to the community, and I just wanted to say that our alumni here in Chicago have been doing a great job!

Every month, we regularly help out at a local retirement home called Heiwa Terrace on the north side of Chicago. This place was created by a group called JASC (Japanese American Service Committee) whose mission is to help out the Japanese and Japanese-American communities. (I should mention that Heiwa Terrace is HUD-certified and abides by the rules of equal housing opportunity.)

About the event: Bingo is on the third Thursday of every month, and usually a few of us come in and help call out numbers. It’s very regular and short – in a very Japanese fashion, it promptly starts at 7 and ends at 8. When I first started, I was surprised to see so many residents – 20 or so mainly Japanese, Koreans and others, and how passionate they were about the game. There are always prizes to be won, usually very small things such as a cans of green beans, soap, shampoo, picture frames, but the most popular item is toilet paper! During the game, extra volunteers usually chit-chat, walk around and help out those who are hard of hearing. At the end a few minutes before 8, we play for a grand prize which we call “super” bingo. In order to win “super” bingo, players have to match both top and bottom row. If you can imagine, there is a fair amount of tension in the room to see who is the winner.

Volunteering at Heiwa is great because we get a chance to practice our Japanese, and for us working professionals, it’s right after work and very low stress – unless we miscall numbers (then all bets are off). Afterwards, we usually go out for dinner and catch up.

Although small, I think having this kind of regular volunteer event is great for alumni and the community and a gives a sense of reason for JETAA. I’m not sure if something like this is available in other cities, but I think it is a good model for local chapters everywhere.

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