NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — A local group is having a good time for a good cause. The nonprofit organization Community Knights gives grants to other Peninsula nonprofits and public school groups through its G.I.F.T. (Grant Initiative Fundraising Team) program. The program is funded, in large part, by playing Bingo.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a truly inclusive community,” said CEO and Co-Founder Jennifer Brown. “And Bingo is one of the ways we did that because if you come out and donate your time, you can create an enormous giveback.” “Everybody’s rooting for one another, and they really do care about each other,” she continued. “We’ve been able to give back $1.6 million in nine years.”

CFO and Co-Founder Teresa Michener said players enjoy more than just fun and games at fundraisers. “We have a spotlight on nonprofits, where the nonprofit can come out and let the players know, ‘Because of you, Community Knights was able to raise the money and this is what we were able to do with the funding’,” she said. “And they love hearing those stories.”

Community Knights also runs the C.O.A.C.H. (Creating Opportunities to Advance Capable Hands) program, which provides adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities with volunteer opportunities. Brown said her daughters inspired the program. “My youngest daughter, Brittany, has autism and an intellectual disability,” Brown said. “When she went out to look for a job, it was very challenging… So, we said, you know, ‘you should volunteer’.” “Her older sister just graduated from college. And she said, ‘Mom, let me put off my job search and let me be her job coach to volunteer’,” she continued. “That was really the seed for our C.O.A.C.H. program, because we realized that those resources weren’t there to being able to engage in the community.”

So, while ‘five in a row’ usually means ‘Bingo’, the real winners of these games are people in need. “When you’re vulnerable, you’re invisible. And those of us who are out in the community thriving, we don’t see those who are getting left behind,” Brown said. “Nobody should have to have that happen to them. So, that’s why we want a truly inclusive community.”

Nonprofits and public school programs can apply for financial assistance from the Community Knights G.I.F.T. program. The group also needs your help to keep their efforts going. You can make donations and sign up to volunteer at the Community Knights’ website.