Literacy and Scrabble and Rebranding: Oh My!


By Alison Wagener

Literacy Volunteers Chippewa Valley has served the community for the last 30 years, working with adults to help them achieve their education, employment, or life goals. This includes not only teaching them to read and write, but also to be proficient in computer skills, math, citizenship, food handling, job safety, and other necessary skills. 

But soon, the organization will undergo a rebranding, complete with a new name, logo, and website. MaryJo VanGompel, executive director of Literacy Volunteers Chippewa Valley, said that the changes will help “clean up some of the myths” that many have about the organization, and the new website design will better engage and facilitate students seeking help. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the new website – I’m no expert in web design, but believe me when I say it’s polished, beautiful, and inviting, the kind of rebranding that could help further catapult the organization to even more success in serving our community.

Spelling Bee competitors

Spelling Bee competitors

The rebranding will be unveiled at the organization’s 15th annual Scrabble Bee, held April 21 from 5-9 p.m. At the Bee, teams compete against each other to collaboratively make as many words as possible for as many points as possible during three timed rounds. The event will also include a 50-50 raffle, silent auction, and raffle baskets. Refreshments, which MaryJo was sure to add includes “adult beverages,” will also be available for purchase. 

As many of you may know, this is the organization’s biggest fundraising event of the year, but this year, it will be a lot bigger thanks to its new venue: the freshly re-opened The Lismore Hotel. Hosting the event at The Lismore will allow the event to bump up its capacity from 40 teams to 50, which MaryJo thinks will be enough to help them reach their biggest fundraising goal yet of $50,000.

Last year, the organization served 456 adults and 28 children, numbers that seem staggering until you consider the scope of illiteracy in the Chippewa Valley. “One out of every ten adults in the Chippewa Valley needs help with reading,” MaryJo said. “They’re functionally illiterate, so they don’t have enough reading skills to complete a job application or read a book to their child. When we look at the Census data from 2010, there are over 10,000 adults in the three-county area that don’t even have a high school diploma, and then about another five thousand have less than a ninth grade education.”

While many people believe that most students utilizing Literacy Volunteers Chippewa Valley are English language learners, this simply isn’t the case. In fact, this group only represents 35% of the organization’s students. The other 65% are comprised of adult basic education students who are functionally illiterate for a variety of reasons, most of which stem from being in poverty. 

You can help support the work of the Literacy Volunteers Chippewa Valley by registering for the Scrabble Bee, which can be done online or in-person at their office. Registration is first come, first-served, and at the time I talked to MaryJo, there were only fifteen spots open – so grab a group of word-loving friends and sign up!