PLAINS TWP. — From behind the caller’s podium, Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club Treasurer Len Luba asked who hadn’t hit “bingo” yet.
“Alright, you’re all going to get two coupon books,” he said.
While most of their bikes are still stowed away, given the dreary, persistent winter-like weather, two biker clubs, Luba’s and the 2nd Battalion Motorcycle Club, pulled out the bingo cards and chips Sunday afternoon to play with veterans living in the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s Community Living Center for the last time until October.
The clubs finished their fifth year playing bingo with the resident veterans. For the last half decade, from October to March, the bikers call out bingo numbers and give coupon booklets as prizes once monthly. The club raises money throughout the year to buy the voucher booklets, each worth a few dollars, that the veterans can use in the hospital’s Veterans Canteen Service general store.
During their final bingo event, Luba and his fellow bikers honored another man who has volunteered his time to support the bingo games.
Frank “Buddy” Piestrak is not a veteran. He’s not even a biker, but a lifelong friend of Luba’s with a hobby he’s using to raise money for the program.
Piestrak donated 15 handmade bead flags to be sold for $20 each and help fund next year’s program.
“What we can sell these for, we can have $300 to buy next year’s coupons,” Luba said to the roomful of veterans, each holding cards waiting for the games to start. “Thank you, Buddy. Good man, good patriot.”
Piestrak, 72, is retired from Procter & Gamble.
To fill his idle hours in the winter, Piestrak weaves decorative flags from beads. Butterflies, crosses, seasonal messages made from brightly colored beads adorn his home by the dozens. He sells them to friends and while traveling in his motor home to recoup his costs, which reach hundreds of dollars, but when he learned of Luba’s efforts to help the veterans, he agreed to donate his time and materials.
The flags are to be sold to friends of the motorcycle club.
On Sunday, Piestrak sat in the back of the room. He smiled as he watched about 40 veterans playing their bingo cards in the hospital’s rec room, filling in the numbers to win the booklets.
There are around 100 veterans living in the Community Living Center, and the canteen serves as a place where the vets can maintain a little independence, hospital spokeswoman Deb Schlosser said. The canteen sells snacks and personal-care goods such as soap and shaving kits. The little market also has games and military memorabilia.
During the year, Schlosser said, other groups volunteer like the biker clubs, playing bingo or other games and giving coupon booklets as prizes.
“Our local area is just blessed with so many people who are dedicated to our veterans,” Schlosser said.