SALINAS, Calif., — Back in 1989, Alisal High School basketball player Jose Gil and his farmworker parents volunteered at a Salinas bingo hall to help him represent the U.S. at a tournament in New Zealand.
Fast forward 33 years and Gil is back at it again, raising funds through bingo in support of his nonprofit Gil Basketball Academy in East Salinas.
Beginning Oct. 22, GBA members and supporters will host three sessions a week at Park Place Bingo Hall (1045 S. Main St., Salinas), which has been helping charitable organizations since it opened in 1985. In fact, 100 percent of the profits benefit participating groups and organizations.
“It’s a hidden gem for those involved and those who play,” said Gil, who also serves as Alisal’s boys basketball coach and athletic director. “It’s just crazy that back in the day we were selling pull tabs to players with (former AHS coach and current GBA board member) Jim Rear leading the way. From being a kid who benefited to now being the director, that’s pretty cool.”
Gil is inviting all GBA supporters and the community at large to help support these bingo nights, held Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights, beginning Oct. 22. Doors open at 4:30 p.m., with games beginning at 6 p.m.
“You can play on an electronic tablet or do it the old-school way with a card and a stamp,” Gil said. “There’s a restaurant, with food delivered to your table. Since I am a sports guy we will have multiple TVs playing football and basketball games during our sessions.”
Community involvement and volunteerism have always been the backbone of GBA, founded 13 years ago by Gil and his wife Eva Silva.
“It’s at the center of everything,” Gil said. “We’re all volunteer based. All of the money goes to cover fees for travel basketball season, to pay for facilities, transportation and everything else to help keep these kids involved with basketball and off the streets.”
GBA will be unveiling special offers for bingo fans through text alerts, including Secret Word prizes, free birthday play, Tuesday Password and more.
“We give out over $25,000 every night,” said Park Place Bingo owner Tony Phelps, whose father started the business 37 years ago. “It’s a lot of fun for everyone. Buy-ins start at $50, and all the profits on those days go to GBA.”
Gil invites the community to attend the bingo nights ,and promises a return on every investment.
“It’s going to be fun and engaging, and for a good cause so It’s a win-win-win trifecta,” he said.