Northampton Scrabble Club hosts charity event

  • Northampton native Kate Miller, center, now of Oregon; Betsy McNamara, left, of Amherst; and Nancy Jessup of Northampton, right, play the second of their three games of Scrabble during an event presented by the Northampton Scrabble Club at American Legion Post 28 in Northampton on Saturday to benefit three local charities: the Northampton Survival Center, Cancer Connection and Climate Action Now. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Roisine Quinn, left, and Cynthia Tarail, both of the Cancer Connection in Northampton, talk about the charity Scrabble event presented by the Northampton Scrabble Club on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, to benefit their organization as well as the Northampton Survival Center and Climate Action Now Western Massachusetts. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Alan Raczka, left, of Easthampton, and JFK Middle School eighth-grader Evan Yurko of Holyoke challenge each other on Saturday. “I joined my school Scrabble club originally so I could beat my mom,” Yurko said. lot.” GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jenny Boas and her twin daughters, Maya, left, and Ella Constantine, of Northampton play a game against Bett Farber (not pictured) during a charity Scrabble event presented by the Northampton Scrabble Club at American Legion Post 28 in Northampton on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The event was held to benefit three local charities: the Northampton Survival Center, Cancer Connection and Climate Action Now Western Massachusetts. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Scrabble Club Director Brett Constantine uses his laptop to check on the validity of a word for Kathy Ruseckas, left, of Leyden and Sandy Loiterstein of Easthampton during the club's charity Scrabble event held at American Legion Post 28 in Northampton on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. About 50 people took part in the event to benefit three local charities: the Northampton Survival Center, Cancer Connection and Climate Action Now Western Massachusetts. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

For the Gazette
Published: 2/10/2018 6:34:38 PM

NORTHAMPTON — As a seven-letter word, “charity” would score an extra 50 points if played on a Scrabble board. But for some Northampton players, it was a goal in itself on Saturday.

From Scrabble aficionados to newcomers to the game, over 50 people filled a room at the American Legion on Riverside Drive in Florence for what Northampton Scrabble Club Director Brett Constantine hopes will become an annual charity event.

Preferring the moniker “facilitator of fun,” Constantine said that while some players like to participate in Scrabble competitions for cash prizes, many also like to just play for fun.

“There are opportunities to play for cash, but we wanted to do something different, where people could relax and have fun,” Constantine said. “When we suggested we have an event for charity it was like, bam, that was it!”

Players were asked for a suggested donation of between $10 to $40 to participate. This year, the club chose to support the Cancer Connection, the Survival Center and Climate Action Now.

The group also solicited over $1,000 worth of raffle prizes from more than 40 individuals and businesses, including local restaurants, shops and services.

A large spread of food featuring soups and chili, sandwiches, salad, fruit and desserts — also donated by local businesses — kept players well fed during their games.

The event went from noon to 3 p.m.. By noon, the long tables in the room were filled with Scrabble players, some laughing and talking about strategy while others sat quietly concentrating on their next move.

“This is really a testament to our community and to our business community,” said Shelly Berkowitz, a Northampton doctor playing at the event. “There are people here from all different backgrounds and all ages. It is a very welcoming club,” Berkowitz said.

One player, Evan Yurko, 14, an eighth-grader at JFK Middle School, has been making a name for himself in the Scrabble world.

“Evan is a totally amazing player,” said Ben Greenwood, coach of the JFK Scrabble Club, noting that he thought Yurko had an excellent chance at winning the $10,000 cash prize at the North American School Scrabble Championship in April this year.

“I joined my school Scrabble club originally so I could beat my mom,” Yurko said. “Now I win a lot.”

But Yurko and others attended Saturday’s event to have a good time and do a good deed.

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity to have fun and support the community,” said Bett Farber of Northampton. “I am a beginner, but I wanted to come and give top dollar because I really appreciate my community and these organizations.”

Roisin Quinn, office manager at the Cancer Connection, said she hadn’t realized Scrabble was so popular until she attended the event.

“As events go, they really planned this one very well,” Quinn said.

“From the PR to the raffle and all of the food, a lot of effort went into this, and it is greatly appreciated by the Cancer Connection.”

Together, the players raised $1,725, which will be split three ways, with the Cancer Connection and the other two charities each getting $575. “I am blown away by people’s generosity again,” Constantine said after the event. “It’s humbling and inspiring.”

The Northampton Scrabble Club meets on Mondays at 5:30 p.m. in the community room of the Burger King restaurant on King Street. Those interested can just show up, watch or play and can be at any skill level.

“If one has to have an addiction, Scrabble is one you don’t mind having!” Berkowitz said.




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