Beanie Babies bring funding to nonprofits

Families hold bingo with stuffed toy prizes

April 15, 1999|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Carroll County nonprofits in need of money may be able to tap into the latest collector's craze to net big bucks. A group of local entrepreneurs is offering to help agencies raise money by holding Beanie Baby bingos.

In recent months, the events have attracted hundreds of people and raised $1,500 for charity. The bingos are held at the Longwell Armory at 11 Longwell Ave.

"It's amazing how popular these bingos are," said Ronald J. Schroers, organizer of the bingos and city supervisor of Recreation and Activities for Westminster. "Some people think Beanies are a waste of money, but other people just love them."

Many people collect the bean bag animals, which are manufactured by Ty Inc.

For the past few months, Schroers and Hampstead resident Gene Fraska have been working in their spare time to organize Beanie Baby bingos. A portion of the proceeds has been donated to Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., a private, nonprofit organization based in Westminster. The group operates several homeless programs under contract with the county.

"We don't have the kind of upfront money it would take to hold one of these bingos," said Barbara Brown, spokeswoman for the nonprofit. "For us, this is a blessing."

It costs about $2,000 to buy the Beanie Babies needed for the bingo and market the event in the local newspaper, said Schroers, 33, who spent hours working on the event.

Schroers' wife, Lecia, and their children staffed the bingos and were paid for their work. Fraska's family also helped and shared in the proceeds.

"We spent the month before each bingo gathering the Beanies," Schroers said. "Gene and his wife, Pat, have gone as far as Atlantic City to buy some of the Beanies. If you don't have the time and money to do that, and many nonprofits don't, it's just not going to work."

Schroers and Fraska, who operates carnival games for a living, have held two Beanie Baby bingos for Human Services Programs. A third is planned for April 24.

At the most recent bingo, held two weeks ago, $4,500 was raised. Schroers and Fraska spent $3,000 on the stuffed animals, advertising, and chair and table rentals. The remaining $1,500 was split evenly among the nonprofit organization and the Schroers and Fraska families.

"My job as a city supervisor is to help nonprofits succeed with charity fund raising if they want to, with the resources we have," said Schroers. "I saw that everybody was doing the Longaberger basket bingos, and I thought it would be neat to do a Beanie Baby bingo."

The baskets are popular among collectors. A Longaberger creation can command several hundred dollars. Fire departments, schools and churches often offer the baskets as bingo prizes.

"I think anything a nonprofit can do to help further their cause, they need to do that," said Brown. "We need to explore different avenues, do more than call people and ask for donations. It's great that Ron has picked up on this trend."

The bingos offer families a chance to help a worthy cause while having fun together, Schroers said.

"Some organizations hold bull roasts. That doesn't jibe with me. A bull roast is not something my wife and I can bring our children to," Schroers said. "The reason I chose bingo is that everybody in the family can play."

Said Jean Isham of Finksburg, who went to both Beanie Baby bingos: "I come for the fun of it. It's a good cause, and something my niece enjoys, too."

Several groups, including the Westminster swim team and local recreation councils, have expressed interest in hiring Schroers and Fraska to hold bingos for them.

"We're going to do these bingos with nonprofits, or we're not going to do them at all," Schroers said.

Pub Date: 4/15/99

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