Weekly Feature



2015-02-26 / Lifestyles

Scrabble Fest helps spread the word about literacy

MARY BEST
Reporter


From left, Kate Johnson, Kathy Mancuso, Lauren Mitchell and Kathy Wilhelm play a game of Scrabble at Diane Savatteri’s Feb. 5 Scrabble Fest party. From left, Kate Johnson, Kathy Mancuso, Lauren Mitchell and Kathy Wilhelm play a game of Scrabble at Diane Savatteri’s Feb. 5 Scrabble Fest party. When the game “Words with Friends” became increasingly popular with the rise of smartphones, it perpetuated the love for a traditional game-night classic: Scrabble.

Literacy New York Buffalo Niagara is currently hosting Scrabble Fest for the 10th year. The event occurs from January through March, during which time people can either attend a public Scrabble party or host one in their home to help raise money and awareness for literacy, said Tara Vogel, executive director of LNYBN.

Thus far, Vogel said, this year’s event has inspired a surge of participation, including two new partnerships with organizations and some new faces hosting their own parties.

“I think because it is our 10th anniversary, people are really getting on board,” she said. “We’ve already [as of Feb. 11] had three private home parties that have been really successful. From the pictures, it looks like they’ve really been having a good time, and it really warms our heart.”


Diane Savatteri displays her spread of Southwestern-themed snacks for her Feb. 5 Scrabble Fest party. Diane Savatteri displays her spread of Southwestern-themed snacks for her Feb. 5 Scrabble Fest party. Vogel added that she’s incredibly proud that the event has lasted a decade, something that doesn’t always happen with nonprofit fundraisers.

While playing Scrabble fits the more traditional idea of game night, it jibes perfectly with LNYBN’s mission.

“It’s forming words, creating words, helping people understand and manage words better. It goes hand in hand with what we stand for,” Vogel said. “We use our volunteers to work with students that are also forming words to try to read, write and speak English better.”

Vogel said she thinks the option to host a private party is what makes Scrabble Fest a fun and intimate way to give back and spread awareness, especially during such a harsh winter.

“It’s a lot easier to get friends and family together and ask them for $20 as opposed to writing a check out for $250,” Vogel said. “I hope in the middle of all this it’s opening up some discussion about the staggering literacy rates in Erie and Niagara counties, and that’s why we exist, to help.”

For a public party, organizations can volunteer to host one, where an entry fee of $15 is typically charged to be donated to LNYBN. If people host their own parties, they can set whatever entry fee they are comfortable with.

Diane Savaterri, a Lancaster resident, said she asked those attending her party to bring a donation of their choosing in an envelope to keep it anonymous. She said her party raised about $300 for the cause.

In light of the frigid weather, Savaterri said she prepared a Southwestern themed menu for her 25 guests, which warmed their hearts and souls during the “hellish wintertime.”

“A lot of us hadn’t played [Scrabble] for quite a while,” Savaterri said. “A lot of people have computers now, and you don’t have as many game nights as you used to. It was a lot of fun to play. Everyone just had a ball.”

In addition to being an LNYBN volunteer, Savaterri is also a social worker, so the cause has always been near and dear to her heart.

“It was a fabulous turnout and wonderful opportunity to support this program and get the word out,” she said. “Literacy is the most important thing on our agenda, especially in Buffalo. … We’re still a poverty-stricken city. We need to put our efforts, time and energy in these programs.”

With one attendee already planning another party, Savaterri said her first time hosting definitely won’t be her last.

At the end of the Scrabble Fest period, Vogel said, a winner from each public or private party is invited to attend the Western New York championship, scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 25, in the Central Library, 1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo.

Vogel said plenty of people come just to watch the tournament or cheer on a friend, a fun conclusion to the event.

Upcoming public Scrabble Fest parties include:

•From 5 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 4, at Resurgence Brewing Company, 1250 Niagara St., Buffalo. The entry fee is $20 and includes a ticket for a free drink.

• From 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 10, at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 1565 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst. There is no registration fee, but LNYBN is having a book sale at the event where 10 percent of the proceeds will be given to the organization. A code to shop online will also be available.

For more information on hosting a Scrabble Fest party or literacy advocacy, contact Anna Nawojski at 876-8991 or anna.nawojski@literacybuffalo.org.

email: mbest@beenews.com

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