Photo: Pictured above, DKG Mahjong tournament committee members smile for the camera at the Gadsden County Club. Front row seated from left to right: Chair Donna Spraggins, President Nancy Gardner and Susan Davidson. Back row standing from left to right: Jane Reynolds, Gail Spotnitz, Marian Ford, Susan Copeland, Nancy Smith, Barbara Russell and Denise Bearden.
By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer
The Delta Kappa Gamma International Society’s local Beta Omicron chapter hosted its annual Mahjong Tournament at the Gadsden Country Club on Jan. 28. The tournament served as an outlet for retired and current women educators to continue their unwavering service to teaching future generations, through contributing to a young woman’s college education.
DKG’s Mahjong tournament began three years ago when the service organization was looking for another project to fund local scholarships. Each year, DKG gives a scholarship to a local high school girl who is entering college to pursue a degree in education. Last year, DKG awarded a Westbrook Christian School student a scholarship for $4,000. In addition to providing scholarships, DKG partners with Special Programming for Achievement Network (SPAN) that ensures at-risk youth succeed academically and socially, supports abused women with projects and works with the Salvation Army.
Prior to the Mahjong tournament, DKG hosted a Christmas extravaganza that featured local vendors at the Noccalula Falls pavilion, but the members wanted a change. Popular among the DKG women, Mahjong is a tile-based game that originated in China, typically played with four players. Several DKG members also double as competitive Mahjong players, traveling in tournaments to New Orleans and Atlanta, perfecting their strategies and competing with one another on a regular basis. The women who suggested hosting a tournament were met with overwhelming excitement, and a successful event that features raffle prizes, donations and awards grows bigger each year.
DKG member Gail Spotnitz was the chair person for the past two years to organize the event. While she recognizes the significance of the tournament’s mission to raise money for future educators, she attested to another element that DKG events cultivate—friendship. Bonding from their experiences as educators, DKG women fellowship together and collaborate to benefit young women who stand where they once stood. Events like the Mahjong tournament strengthen their friendship and allow them the opportunity to help others while participating in a fun, relaxing and enjoyable day.
“You just meet some of the loveliest, loveliest people through this medium called Mahjong,” said Spotnitz.
The Delta Kappa Gamma International Society began in 1929 when 12 women from Texas united their efforts to better future generations of all women educators. As educators themselves, the 12 founding members of DKG understood the importance of professional preparation and women supporting, encouraging and uplifting women. Together with the top 10 percent of teachers in Austin, these determined individuals established a sisterhood that recognizes women’s contributions to the teaching profession and develops scholarships for females who need assistance in pursuing and improving their own education, so that they may then educate others. Since then, DKG’s mission to promote personal and professional development and nurture excellence in education blossomed into an organization that supports women worldwide.
Alabama became the second state to welcome DKG’s vision of nurturing leadership in successful women, and today the local DKG chapter continues transforming that vision into reality. Despite the progress women have made professionally, DKG President Nancy Gardner remembers an era when women were limited in their career choices. Though she herself always wanted to teach and values the contributions teachers make daily, educational availability and societal expectations hindered women who might have desired alternative routes.
“When we started, there were two things they thought women could do,” said Gardner. “You could either be a teacher or a nurse. There weren’t all the things that were available to young ladies today.”
DKG Chair and Mahjong tournament organizer Donna Spraggins’ mother was a nurse. A teacher for 30 years, Spraggins considered all her students her own children and wanted them all to succeed in life. Teaching for Spraggins was like a quest to help these students, to encourage them and support them and watch them grow. Having taught at Gaston for a number of years, Spraggins understands the difficulties that low socioeconomic communities face educationally. She believes that DKG programs like the Mahjong tournament give students the opportunity to begin their educational journeys and to follow that path toward success.
“It’s so special to me, because teaching [at Gaston] I saw so many children who were capable of going to college but were not able to economically go,” said Spraggins. “[DKG’s scholarship] is a good thing.”
In remembering the past, DKG fosters a better future. Through providing scholarships for women who share the organization’s vision of excelling in education, those scholarship recipients transform into educators who can lead their female students to accomplish their goals and reach their dreams. DKG’s efforts create a constant circle of giving that replenishes overtime as female educators strive to develop positive change, expanding educational opportunities for women to pursue the careers of their choice and inspiring future teachers to do the same.
The Mahjong tournament concluded with awarding Jane King and Barbara Davis a tie for first place, and Suzette Grissom and Mary Stamos a tie for second place. With the success of this event, DKG plans to continue their efforts to better the community in the future.