£100,000 full house of charity donations for Gimingham bingo pals

Friends Heather Lee and Maggie Thurston, who have been running bingo sessions at Gimingham village h

Friends Heather Lee and Maggie Thurston, who have been running bingo sessions at Gimingham village hall for 21 years. Picture: KAREN BETHELL - Credit: Archant

Two community-minded friends are celebrating, after totting up nearly £100,000 of charity donations by running family bingo evenings at a north Norfolk village hall.

When Heather Lee and Maggie Thurston came up with the idea of hosting the sessions at Gimingham village hall to raise cash for local good causes in 1995, they drew bingo balls from a cloth bag and charged 20p per card, with Heather taking charge of cash, Maggie calling the numbers and a small team of helpers serving up refreshments during the interval.

They raised just over £600 in their first year, but, as popularity for the family-friendly evenings grew, takings snowballed and by the late 1990s, they were raking in more than £2,000 a year, which was handed out to schools, playgroups, community organisations and healthcare charities.

Sessions were then increased from monthly to fortnightly and, with players coming from as far afield as Aylsham, Trunch, Cromer and North Walsham to join in the fun, Heather and Maggie, both of whom are Gimingham village hall committee members, decided to invest in an electronic, light-up bingo machine.

By the early 2000s, takings had trebled again and, since 2012, the friends have raised more than £7,000 a year, last year bagging a record total of £8424.68.

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Good causes wanting to take part supply their own bingo and raffle prizes and those benefiting from the friends' efforts have ranged from Mundesley Scouts and North Walsham Beavers, to Gimingham Football Club, Sheringham Woodfields School, and two needy local families.

'It is really popular and, because we do so well, we have even got a waiting list of charities who want us to raise money for them,' Heather said.

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With the pair celebrating their 21st bingo anniversary this year, former Gimingham postmistress Heather decided to tot up how much they had taken since they started and got quite a surprise when the total came to £96,819.

'We wanted to let everyone know how much we had raised and I couldn't believe it when I added it up – I had to check it again,' she said.

'It is really nice to be able to help out, especially with local charities, but we couldn't have done it without the people who help us.'

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