Four TCU students created the club “Bingo in the Park” with the mission to build empowering friendships between students and people in Fort Worth experiencing homelessness.
“Bingo in the Park” was established as an official club at TCU during the Fall 2021 semester by Charlie Newsome, Tatum Smith, Peter Donaldson and Josie Schoonover. The group meets every Friday at 9 a.m. at Oakland Lake Park in Fort Worth.
Newsome said that when most people think of service, they think of providing something that is physical. “Where we come in is we try to go even farther and provide some sort of emotional and mental service, and we do that by creating a community that allows for empowering relationships to take place,” Newsome said.
Newsome said that the people they serve may have been told in the past that they are lesser beings, not worthy of being included in society or having uplifting relationships, and “Bingo in the Park” works to build those relationships and celebrate people for who they are.
“Relationships are a two-way street for both people,” Newsome said. “I think people who have developed relationships in bingo feel a genuine love and care for the other person and that’s the reason why people come every week.”
Smith said that the club provides people experiencing homelessness with something that is consistent. Many of these people face uncertainties such as a steady income, reliable family, or place of living, but they can always count on their “Bingo in the Park” friends every Friday morning.
“You realize, oh we have shared interests, and we have good days and bad days and we’re really not all that different,” Smith said of her experience with the club. “We had in our head that there was just like a huge ocean of difference between us when really that’s not the case.”
It’s also been a way to help people celebrate their most important moments. The students of “Bingo in the Park” make sure that everyone is seen, loved and feels special on their birthday.
“Thanks to SGA funding, we’re able to provide birthday cakes, cards, candles, hats and birthday pins,” Smith said. “It’s just a time when we can come and let these people know they are worthy to be celebrated, we are there for them, and we’re their friends.”
Newsome said that this is a mission everybody wholeheartedly believes in and is an idea that could be established on every college campus.