Photo: Several players participate in the 2022 Red Rose Mah Jongg tournament. (Courtesy of DKG)
By Emma Kirkemier, News Editor
Update (04-20-2023): The sixth annual Red Rose Mah Jongg tournament raised $5,500 for this year’s grant-in-aid, whose recipient has not yet been selected but will be announced at DKG Founder’s Day next month. Traditional Mah Jongg tournament winners were Lauren Coleman in first, Charlotte Cohn in second and Gwen Bonner in third. Royal Siamese Mah Jongg tournament winners were Denise Skelton in first, Cindy Brown in second and Jane King in third.
The local chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma Educational Society will host the sixth annual Red Rose Mah Jongg Tournament at Gadsden Country Club on April 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
An entry fee of $45 will be charged, and raffle tickets are available for purchase at the event.
All money raised from the tournament will go directly to a grant-in-aid, presented by the society each year to a deserving senior in area schools who plans to pursue a college degree in education. The deadline to submit applications for the grant is April 17.
“The 2021 winner was Taylor Holder, and the 2022 winner was Taylor Barksdale,” said grant-in-aid Chairperson Susan Davidson. “Taylor Holder was from Glencoe, and Taylor Barksdale was from Etowah High School.”
Barksdale will speak at the event. She is currently a student at Gadsden State Community College, where she plans to finish her associate degree in December.
“We follow up with them to see how things are going,” Davidson said. “We don’t want to just award these girls this money and forget about them.”
According to Davidson, Holder was recently accepted to the college of education at Jacksonville State, and she will be inducted in May as a collegiate member of Delta Kappa Gamma.
Applications to the grant-in-aid are evaluated by a committee using an established rubric, where the essay portion carries a lot of weight.
“Our project is to help early career educators,” said DKG Membership Director Susan Copeland. “We are choosing someone to help in this process that’s going to become an educator, but then we help first-year teachers that are out in the field.”
The society collects school supplies for new teachers at the beginning of each school year.
Copeland said the local chapter of DKG spotlights a different charity each month, recent ones including the Gadsden Museum of Art, local food banks and the Barrie Center, but its primary focus is always on key women educators.
“It’s a tough job being a teacher,” Copeland said. “It is the hardest thing you’ll ever do if you do it correctly.”
Davidson emphasized that 100 percent of profit from the tournament goes directly to the scholarship.
The chapter has been offering the grant-in-aid to local students for many years, but only recently has the program expanded. The amount given went from a standard $500 to several thousand each year, thanks to the Mah Jongg tournament.
Last year the chapter raised $6,000, and this year members hope to exceed that amount.
“The very first year when we had the tournament, I think we were all in such shock that we had made that kind of money,” Copeland said. “We had not made a decision about, ‘Are we going to give it all? Are we going to keep a little back in case we need it for the one next year?’ And we felt like all of it needs to go to this person, no keeping back.”
Entry fees contribute to the monies, as do the raffle tickets sold on the day of the tournament.
According to Davidson, all raffle items, including Alabama and Auburn-themed baskets, are valued at $100 or more.
“The tournament definitely has become the biggest event,” Copeland said.
Both attested to the Mah Jongg craze that seems to have taken Gadsden by storm in recent years.
“You teach somebody else, and it just carries on,” Davidson said. “I learned in a class through Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.”
Davidson has since taught several Mah Jongg classes herself. Copeland said the game originally bloomed into the Gadsden community from a Jewish group who played regularly, later helped by OLLI courses and free Gift to Gadsden courses offered each year at Gadsden First United Methodist.
“It kind of stemmed from a Jewish group of ladies,” she said. “Now of course it has branched out and everyone plays it, but I think a lot of the Jewish ladies here in Gadsden had so many friends that they taught to play, and then it just mushroomed. A lot of these ladies I think of as the first ones I knew of that played it.”
Mah Jongg had permeated many Gadsden social circles by 2018, when DKG held its first tournament.
“This is considered a social game,” Davidson said. “But in tournament play — what we call regular Mah Jongg or American Mah Jongg — a game should last 15 minutes. Because in a tournament, your goal is to play four games in an hour, and four games is a round.”
The tournament will abide by National Mah Jongg League rules and timing conventions.
“It’s a lot of strategy, but it’s also a lot of luck,” said Davidson.
Call Chairperson Donna Spraggins at 256-390-6338 to register.