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Bee spells H-E-L-P for area literacy efforts
10 teams enjoy friendly competition in 21st annual event
Bill Coates, left, celebrates after teammate Don Landrum, right, delivers a correct spelling for their First Baptist Church team.


Definition please?

To make whole or complete again; restore to a perfect state; renew.

Can you use it in a sentence please?

There are people in the Gainesville-Hall County community who are actively trying to redintegrate literacy in adults.

Redintegrate. R-E-D-I-N-T-E-G-R-A-T-E.

The Gainesville-Hall County Alliance for Literacy held its 21st Annual Spelling Bee on Tuesday night, where teams committed to that restoration were pitted against each other in a friendly spelling competition.

But this is no ordinary spelling bee.

Ten teams from the area, including teams from Brenau University, Cargill, Gainesville Rotary Club and a handful of churches, among others, stepped up to the microphone for a cause: raising money to support the alliance’s mission to raise the literacy rate in the area.

“Most people don’t just understand the critical need for literacy skills in our community,” said Dorothy Shinafelt, executive director for the alliance. “We do have a substantial issue.”

The alliance helps provide resources, as well as numerous other services, for the Adult Learning Center, located at Lanier Technical College.

The center hosts classes for around 200 adults with reading levels comparable to elementary-age children.

“The Alliance for Literacy is the umbrella agency for all literacy concerns in our community, but our primary focus is adult literacy,” said Shinafelt.

The spelling bee is the organization’s biggest fundraising effort, collecting more than $300,000 since its inception.

“As a part of the (Gainesville State College) Education Club, we try to do as many outreach things as we can and this is a good opportunity to donate money and have a little fun for the literacy alliance,” said Emiley Misser, a bee participant whose team, “Bee All that You Can Bee,” was the first to be eliminated. “Not because we can spell, by any means, obviously. But it’s fun and it’s a way to get out into the community.”

The 10 teams eventually dwindled until two were left: “Word Nerds” from Lanier Tech and “Circuit Riders” from First United Methodist Church.

“Circuit Riders” came out on top in the end.

“We wanted to win and it feels great,” said Michelle Alexander, a “Circuit Riders” team member. “It’s just a lot of fun.”

The event was hosted by “wordsmith” Gay Hammond, a lively theater teacher at Brenau, who kept the crowd laughing and the words coming.

“If you can ever get someone here once, they’ll come back every year,” said Shinafelt. “You tell someone: ‘Come to a spelling bee’ and they think 13-year-olds and they say ‘no.’ But it’s fun and it’s team-spirited.”

The event is held each spring and is the flagship fundraiser for the alliance.

The alliance also hosts a 24-hour Read-a-Thon in the fall. But as fun as the events may be, they play a critical role in ensuring the alliance can maintain its presence in the community.

“We’re looking to improve the lives of our students, their families and this entire community,” said Shinafelt.