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Texas Charity Advocates Stand Tall: New DVD 'Sends' Message

The Texas Charity Advocates, a nonprofit organization “Dedicated To The Betterment Of Texas Charities,” will host its second annual Charity Day at the Capitol Building in Austin, Texas; April 22. Two years ago, the TCA members (above) met on the steps of the Capitol for a press conference with a State Senator and a member of the House of Representatives. Texas charities were honored in resolutions in both the House and the Senate. For further information on the TCA or to learn how to establish an organization in your state, log on to www.texascharityadvocates.org.

Texas Charity Advocates: “Dedicated To The Betterment Of Texas Charities”

The first time Melissa Young ever played bingo, she was with her 85-year-old grandmother. She was only 18 years old, won $300 and thought the game was great ... Except when she shouted “B-I-N-G-O” a couple times too early and some people got angry at her, she said.

Twelve years later, Young is more apt to be cheered on by those in the bingo industry and the charities they fund.

In fact, in a sense, they’re rallying behind her. Especially after the debut of a collaborative DVD, which premiered at a bingo industry meeting held this winter in Austin, Texas.

Now, 32, Young serves as executive director of the Texas Charity Advocates, “Dedicated To The Betterment Of Texas Charities,” as its slogan states.

Established in 2005, the Woodlands, Texas-based organization is composed of charities and other licensees that conduct bingo games within the state.

Currently 325-strong, their goal is to increase the awareness of what local and national charities do for their communities.

Many of these charities rely heavily on the funds received from charitable bingo games, she said.

The 9 1/2 minute DVD, produced by the TCA, is pivotal in a statewide campaign to fulfill its mission.

A pictorial tribute, it highlights three different charities, from the roughly 1,400 across the state that are funded by charitable bingo.

In addition to a Boys and Girls Club, which benefits military families and a radiation treatment center for children, the DVD features the EasTex U.S. Marine Corps League.

Although it serves all veterans of war, the league is currently coordinating an effort to use charitable bingo funds to send families to Bethesda, Md.; to welcome home soldiers wounded from the Iraqi War.

“Studies show that it significantly decreases recovery time when families are present, by boosting morale. The league pays for their room and board,” Young said.

The league is also helping with Toys For Tots, a program to benefit under-served children – just one of its numerous charitable endeavors.

“Traditionally, this is the job of the Marine Reserves, but the Houston area reserves were called up to active duty, resulting in a shortage of marine volunteers,” Young said.

Already receiving favorable reviews, the DVD can be downloaded from the TCA’s Web site: www.texascharityadvocates.org.

“Its message,” Young said, “is simple. This is what charity bingo is all about.”
But the impact the DVD has had since its debut is deeply felt.

“So far, there’s been a very positive reaction to it because it is very moving. It’s what these charities do.”

But why this massive call to arms? Because many of these very charities may be in peril, according to the TCA.

Bingo, like all things in Texas, has been big business.

But the amount of money that charities have been able to distribute has been dwindling, along with game attendance, in recent years.

From 1998 to 2007, charitable distributions from bingo dropped from $42.5 million to $32 million, dipping its lowest at $29.8 in 2003, according to the Texas Lottery Commission, which regulates the game for the state.

“The decline is a result of the enormous competition from other forms of entertainment, Internet gaming and casinos in our neighboring states,” she said.

But why is this a public concern?

Chances are money raised from charitable bingo benefits you or someone you know.
As evidenced by the DVD, Texas charitable bingo proceeds fund numerous public service and community benefit projects all over the state, often manned by volunteers.

Their reach is vast and deep – from youth mentoring programs to shelters for battered women to care for the elderly and poor.

“Many of these charities rely heavily on the funds received from charitable bingo games. If the decline continues, many will cease to exist along with their services,” she said.

Rallying the “troops,” TCA devised an action plan.

Research indicated that there is a lack of public knowledge regarding the benefits of charitable bingo in the state.
In other words, bingo has an image problem, she said. Which is why the DVD came into play – to educate the people of Texas and their policy makers about the benefits of charitable bingo.

And, it’s a message that hits home.

“We believe that the most effective way to achieve this is to mobilize charities around the state to speak to their legislators regarding the work of their individual charities,” she said.

But the group is careful not to blur the lines of its mission.
“We’re kind of like the Chamber of Commerce for charity bingo,” she said.

The TCA is governed by a seven-member volunteer board, who together bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the table.

The board is represented by an attorney, who works with charities, a senior advisor, three charities, a distributor and commercial lessor, who meet quarterly and prior to Legislative sessions.

The organization is funded by tiered membership dues. Encouraged to be active participants, members are kept informed by various e-mail communications, quarterly newsletters, industry news and press clipp

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