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From left, Colleen Malley of Burlington, Sarah Hudkins of New Britain, and Adam Swift of New Britain play a game of scrabble for the 12th annual Literacy Volunteers of Central CT Scrabble Challenge at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville.

Scrabble challenge helps area literacy volunteers

SOUTHINGTON — Hun­dreds of people hovered around Scrabble boards set up on tables throughout the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville April 24. They sifted through dozens of letters to try to formulate the words for the most points.

It was the 12th annual Scrabble Challenge and Silent Auction to help raise funds for the Literacy Volunteers of Central Connecticut. The Literacy Volunteers of Central Connecticut assists more than 300 adults with free literacy tutoring in Southington, New Britain, Middletown, Bristol, Berlin, Burlington, Cromwell, Durham, East Haddam, East Hampton, Haddam, Kensington, Marlborough, Middlefield, Plainville, and Portland. The organization was founded in 1978.

Leonard Nelson, of New Britain, huddled around the board with his team.

“Put an ‘s’ there for ‘stow,’” Nelson said, pointing at their Scrabble board.

“I was just thinking that,” said Colleen Malley, one of his teammates from Burlington.

Players participated in teams of six and 10, collaborating to come up with the best words to complete the board. Nelson and Malley’s board was filled a few minutes before the 25-minute timer ran out.

“I think very highly of the event,” Nelson said.

“We thought we did well last year and got beat by thousands of points,” he said, laughing.

Darlene Hurtado, executive director, said the group has raised about $250,000 throughout the 12 years.

“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the support of this event,” Hurtado said. “All of our classes are free and without fundraisers we couldn’t do it. We can’t depend on just grants.”

First place won a $50 gift card to Tops Market, second was a $25 gift card to Friends Café, and third was a $10 gift card to Joey Garlic’s restaurant.

“It’s cheating for a cause,” said Sue Smayda, executive director of the Southington Library and member of the literacy board. “They can buy extra letters and have a chance to look at the dictionary.”

Letters were $1 extra and to have a peek at the dictionary was $2.

The theme this year was “What’s up with weather.” The team that used the most weather words throughout the board would receive a bottle of wine for each person.

More than 200 people filled the room to help with the cause.

“It’s fun, it’s encouraging and it’s for a good cause,” said Sarah Hudkins, of New Britain, who works as a program assistant for the literacy volunteers. “It’s a great group of people and incredible group of students. It’s such an important cause to help improve literacy.”

After the Scrabble challenge ended and scores were tallied up, four people were picked to participate in a spelling bee.

Dutchpoint Federal Credit Union won the weather challenge. In first place was Webster Bank, with 4,585 points. Second place went to the Rotary Club of Southington, and third place was Pension Consultants.

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