"Good morning, Wal-Mart shoppers."
Every week, bingo calls and store announcements mingle inside the Evans Wal-Mart Supercenter.
Occasionally, a shopper wandering into the store's McDonald's for a cup of coffee raises a surprised eyebrow to see dozens of senior citizens, listening intently to the numbers being called out and every so often shouting a triumphant "Bingo."
It's a typical Thursday morning at the store, and most of the players are regulars here for the hourlong game.
Patricia Shaw, manager of the store's floral department and community involvement program, draws the numbers and hands out the prizes - trinkets taken from the store aisles.
"This has been a lot of fun," she said about the weekly game, which typically attracts 40-45 players. "I've met a lot of really interesting people here."
On any given weekday morning around Columbia County, there's usually a senior citizen bingo game going on, and for some of those who are retired and at home all day, the gatherings are something to look forward to.
"I'm 89 years old, and that's the only thing that motivates me," joked Agnes Henderson of Evans.
Henderson is active on the circuit. Sometimes she gets to the games hours earlier than they start to play cards and catch up with bingo-facilitated friends.
Ticking off her weekly schedule, she usually makes it the rounds to the Wal-Mart on Bobby Jones Expressway, the Hardee's in Evans and the Krogers grocery store.
Bill Rowley and Jo Maddox play bingo with dozens of other seniors at out-of-the-ordinary locations in Columbia County.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"The same ones go (to the games)," Henderson said. "We're just like one big family."
On a recent Thursday inside Wal-Mart, Noreen Noone played her first-ever bingo game. The 80-year-old recently moved to Evans from St. Augustine, Fla. Her daughter-in-law, Audrey Noone, found out about the game by chance when she stopped into the McDonald's for breakfast one day.
"I never played bingo in my life," Noreen said. "I think it's nice, whoever's sponsoring it."
The businesses who play host to the senior citizens games do not charge players and see the events as a way to reach out to the community, Shaw said.
Though it can be a victorious moment to snag a bingo win, it's not the primary reason why people show up, said 69-year-old Rhetta Cadle of Martinez.
"That's just something for seniors to do," she said. "We don't go to bingo for the prizes. We go for the companionship with others."
Here are some of the area businesses that hold senior citizen bingo games:
* Tuesdays at 8 a.m. - Wal-Mart, 260 Bobby Jones Expressway, Martinez
* Tuesdays at 2 p.m. - Hardee's, 4360 Washington Road, Evans
* Wednesdays at 9 a.m. - Kroger, 4355 Washington Road, Evans
* Thursdays at 9 a.m. - Wal-Mart Supercenter, 4471 Washington Road, Evans
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