Columbia Center Rotary raises funds for charities

Columbia Center Rotary Club member Sondra Rader plans to wear a neckerchief and a cowboy hat to the club’s annual mortgage burning party today.

This year’s costume is Western, and the theme is all about helping others.

Rader plans to play quick bingo, do ring and bean-bag tosses and bowl to raise money for her favorite charities, which include Royal Family Kids Camp, a summer camp for abused and foster children and Cancer Center.

Rader, who’s been a club member for eight years, said the annual event is fun and rewarding.Members don’t spend their own money, but if they win a game they get to decide which organizations will get their share of $50,000 that is set aside from the $400,000 the club makes annually operating a bingo operation.

The annual event helps club members relive the mortgage burning party of 2003, when the club paid off its million-dollar mortgage on Bingo Boulevard on West John Day Avenue two years ahead of schedule.

Mark Griffin, president-elect of the club, said the event helps the club’s 132 members add a touch of fun to their commitment to serve. Rotary is about serving others locally and internationally, he said.The Columbia Center Club is one of six Rotary Clubs in the Tri-Cities.

Over the years, game winners at the annual event have designated numerous agencies for help, including United Way, the Children’s Development Center, Sexual Assault Response Center and Washington State University Tri-Cities, Griffin said.

The other $350,000 raised by bingo is spent on efforts such as providing scholarships to high school students and helping build facilities for the community to enjoy, he said.

Rader said Bingo Boulevard has enabled the club to help underprivileged children, battered and abused women and contributed to help beautify the Tri-Cities.

Columbia Rotary started in 1985 and began Bingo Boulevard in 1992 in an old grocery store on Fourth Avenue and Vancouver Street.

In 1997, the bingo operation was moved to its current location.

* Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; pjoshi@tricity; Business Beat blog at