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Scrabble Scramble is a fun war of words to benefit Rowan Literacy Council

By Maggie Blackwell

For the Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — It’s a contest of carefully crafted vs. strategically racing.

Either way, the Scrabble Scramble for Rowan Literacy Council is a war of words.

Six teams competed Friday night for bragging rights and their name on a plaque that hangs in Rowan Public Library Headquarters Branch.

Trinity Oaks, the winningest team ever, started the night by spending almost $600 on extra letters to make 20-plus words with multiple z’s.

Yes, that’s right. Twenty-plus words that each had multiple z’s: “yzzyvas,” “pizazz,” “zzz,” “jazzy,” “zazz,” “zizz,” “zizzle” and on and on.

The team used some of these words two, even three, times, which is perfectly legal in this version of Scrabble.

David Foreman is the senior member of the team.

“We’re waiting for that big prize,” Foreman said with dry wit. “It really took off when we started soliciting funds from the residents. They’ve been very generous. It takes money to win.”

Winners receive a cash prize and bragging rights.

Most of the other teams plodded along, buying one or two letters as needed. Extra letters cost a buck apiece.

The Friends of the Library table crafted “juxtaposition” across the top, “journalization” down the side and “lymphadeno” across the bottom.

Central United Methodist Church’s “Team Rita” played for the first time this year. The team is named for Sunday school teacher Rita Sims.

“We’ve never played, and we didn’t practice, either,” team members proclaimed.

They worked together to spell “xylophone,” “rejection” and “exhibition.”

The competition was started in 2004. It’s the only fundraiser for the Literacy Council, other than participating in the United Way.

Last year was the most profitable Scramble ever, clearing just over $10,000. The money supports the many services provided by the council, which was founded in 1976.

In the old days, its mission was mainly helping adults learn to read or improve reading skills. Today, 47 tutors work one-on-one with 90 students. About 60 students are learning English.

The council’s work doesn’t stop there. Volunteers tutor kids at Hurley Elementary School and partner with the Salisbury Housing Authority in the summer to offer youth programs.

The council’s first citizenship class graduated just a few weeks ago at St. John’s Lutheran Church. Students included transplants from Mexico, Laos and Germany.

Of the six Scrabble Scramble teams, three were teen tables. Friends of the Library sponsored a teen table, and Angelia Fleming brought her AIG English students from North Rowan Middle School. During breaks, the students shared their projects with a roomful of appreciative adults: a film on the Kindness Challenge; a presentation on “Nature’s Children,” an initiative to get kids to go outside more often; and a marketing film on Rowan County.

The Literacy Council has helped these kids, too, providing Words With Friends for their school iPads to practice word skills; sponsoring their tables at the competition; and providing them with Scrabble T-shirts.

Scrabble Scramble emcee Donna Groce kept the contest running smoothly and punctuated rounds with Scrabble jokes.

Question: “What’s the worst hand Old McDonald got?”

Answer: “E-I-E-I-O.”

At the end of the evening, winners were announced. Trinity Oaks came out on top — way on top, with a total of 9,567 points.

Friends of the Library came in second place with 5,125, and Friends of the Library Teens was third at 2,608.

The Literacy Council has a waiting list of seven adults anxious to learn reading skills. Anyone who wants to be trained as a tutor or to register for next year’s Scrabble Scramble should visit the Literacy Council’s website, www.rcliteracy.org, or call 704-216-8266.

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