DICKSON, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s almost bingo time at the Dickson Senior Center in Dickson. It’s an activity those 55 and older look forward to several times a week.
Everybody wins and prizes awarded are valued at a dollar. But this bingo session is different. The reason, Lauren Owen.
“I actually started about a year ago. I saw someone on Instagram with way more of a following than I would ever have, she did a small Venmo challenge for a waitress and I was like, you know it’s the holiday season, let’s do it.”
This dental hygienist raised $2400 dollars in her first Venmo challenge on social media. People in Middle Tennessee and from across the country donated so Lauren could help a Dickson waitress who couldn’t afford Christmas for her children.
Lauren gave this single mom $1200. The rest of the cash was split among the waitresses’ co-workers who each received $120.
Lauren’s Venmo challenges have also helped flood victims in Humphreys County like a man who received a truck and tools to help him get back to work, plus gift cards to help his family recover items lost in the flood.
“What I can do individually and what you can do individually may not seem like much, but when we all pool that together and we give as a group I mean it makes a huge impact,” said Lauren.
This brings us to Lauren’s latest challenge. She raised $2,070 in just four days.
“And I actually left it up to the social media world where their money went because as the end of the day it’s not my money. And they all voted and 98-percent of them said the Senior Center.”
Bingo prizes ranged in value from $10 to $30 — name brand items to restaurant gift cards, luxuries seniors may not purchase as many are on fixed incomes. Everything purchased is from Dickson stores, supporting local business owners, another way Lauren’s challenge is giving back.
As for every winner, they pick what they want or need.
“I chose the coffee cup because it was the nice flat bottom that doesn’t tip over so easily. Some of those cups that come out now you, touch them and they fall over so that’s something I’ve been looking for, it’s hard to find,” said Senior Center guest Frank Stiver.
Winners couldn’t contain their excitement! After bingo, the staff offers seniors a home-cooked meal for just $4. But this time, Lauren has enough money to cater lunch from a Mexican restaurant, Camino Real, a favorite with the group at the senior center. So, lunch was free.
Lauren also had enough to give out additional gift cards, including to the oldest person in the room who was age 91. Seniors in other parts of the center also got gift cards. This is all thanks to the generous Venmo challenge donors.
“Lauren is a hero because I don’t know how she came up with this. I’ve never even heard of Venmo, vimbo, or whatever. We’re very appreciative that she did.,” said senior center guest Judy Hardy.
“Love is infectious. I’m not doing this to highlight myself or to highlight any individual or person. I am doing it to simply highlight love and hope that other people go do the same thing,” said Lauren.
So, we honor Lauren Owen as our News 2 Gives Back Hometown Hero for the month of January, for organizing people from across the country to help people in need in Middle Tennessee, changing lives.