Scrabble Scramble raises money for literacy

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 14, 2011

By Hugh Fisher
SALISBURY — How many words can you spell in under 20 minutes?
When a flock of highly-competitive spellers get together, pitting their skills against other teams of wordsmiths, the possibilities seem endless.
The annual Scrabble Scramble fundraiser for the Rowan County Literacy Council brought in thousands of dollars Tuesday.
Huddled around deluxe-size Scrabble game boards in the Holiday Inn ballroom, teams tried to spell as many words as possible with their pools of letters.
But since the goal was to raise funds for charity, teams could buy peeks at the dictionary and extra tiles to help complete those blockbuster words.
Like “juxtapositional.”
Or “esquire,” “quivers” or “zygote.”
“You can’t be a zygotologist, can you?” Salisbury City Council member Maggie Blackwell quipped.
She was part of a team ironically named “Purfekt Spelers.”
Her teammates included a Salisbury Police captain, an English instructor at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and a number of local businesswomen.
“I’m pleased to be here,” Blackwell said of the friendly competition. “This is an excellent cause.”
Phyllis Martin, of the Literacy Council, said the funds raised will help provide education to those who lack vital communication skills.
“Our students are the winners,” Martin said.
Some of those students were on hand as volunteers.
Rajko and Radenka Dragas, natives of the former Yugoslavia, became American citizens some years ago, Martin said.
Tuesday, Rajko acted as scorekeeper, but he also thanked the Literacy Council for the help they gave him and his wife as they struggled to learn English.
“They gave us much help,” Dragas said. “I came here 10 years ago without a word of English.”
Today, he said, he’s able to communicate much more clearly because of the Literacy Council.
The top Scrabble team of the night was the group of savvy senior spellers from Trinity Oaks retirement community.
Dave Foreman, the de facto team captain of the Trinity Oaks crew, has competed for three years.
“It feels good to finally come out on top,” Foreman said.
How does one prepare for linguistic battle?
The answer doesn’t lie in etymology (the study of word history) or clairvoyance (mind-reading).
“Practice,” Foreman said. “Sometimes once or twice a week.”
Team members started playing the crossword-puzzle board game over a month ago to be ready for this challenge.
Some of Foreman’s teammates joked about other training methods.
“We sleep with a dictionary!” Char Molrine said with a sly smile. “It goes straight to your brain if you use it as a pillow.”
Between rounds of team Scrabble, emcee David Whisenant of WBTV helped award raffle prizes donated by local businesses.
Martin said she couldn’t estimate the amount of money raised, but said past events have netted the Literacy Council around $3,000 each year.
Participants got to share the feeling of having helped out a good cause by having a lot of fun.
There’s no single word for it, but “camaraderie” comes close.
“This is the first time a lot of us have met each other,” said Shelley Palmer, English instructor at RCCC.
“We may not necessarily be the best, but we have the most fun,” said teammate Capt. Melonie Thompson of the Salisbury Police Dept.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.