Celebrating volunteers: Sharing a love for Scrabble

An old Scrabble joke goes that it’s all fun and games until someone loses an “I”. The weekly Scrabble games in HammondCare At Home client Rosealie Tobin’s Merewether home with volunteer Rachel Wherrett are indeed intense showdowns.

Scrabble loving homecare client Rosalie Tobin with volunteer Rachel Wherrett 580Mrs Tobin, 85, a retired school teacher, is a veteran devotee of the Scrabble game, a long-term member of the Newcastle Scrabble Club and a regular competitor in NSW tournaments.

When Mrs Tobin became a HammondCare At Home client earlier this year, she made it known she loved the game and was interested in keeping her mind active by competing with someone else who was up for the challenge.

HammondCare Hunter Region Volunteers Coordinator, Louise Walshe, twigged she had a word-playing match-up from heaven when Ms Wherrett too confessed her Scrabble love during an interview for a volunteer position.

Ms Wherrett, 44, of Wallsend, was put in touch with Mrs Tobin in January and the hunt for those elusive triple word scores began immediately.

“As soon as I walk in the door, out comes the Scrabble board. We get straight to it,” Ms Wherrett said.

“I really enjoy it. I have always liked the game and playing with Rosalie reminds me fondly of how I used to play against my grandmother as a girl.”

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HammondCare Head of Pastoral Care and Volunteer Services, Andrew Nixon, said Rachel’s Scrabble playing was one of many examples of the wonderful contribution of volunteers as HammondCare celebrates National Volunteers Week (May 18 to 24).

“Because HammondCare invests in paid volunteer coordinators, we have people who are skilled and committed to matching volunteers with the right clients,” Rev Nixon said.

“This means we can be really creative in responding to the individual needs of people.”

There is usually enough time for two formal games when Ms Wherrett, a project officer with the University of Newcastle, visits on a Monday.

Even the COVID-19 restrictions did not slow them down. Ms Wherrett was unable to visit for a period so the two just kept going online with Words with Friends. The games have recommenced again in May after Mrs Tobin’s family were comfortable that social distancing requirements could be met.

Mrs Tobin, a mother of six, grandmother of 14 and great grandmother of 4, is appreciative of Rachel’s commitment to play.

To ensure all is fair and above disputes, Mrs Tobin keeps on hand the latest words approved for use in games.

“The 2019 list approved OK as a word. They included the word Ze on that list too,” she said.

Of Rachel’s Scrabble prowess, Mrs Tobin said: “She is improving every time.”

HammondCare has 103 regular volunteers in the Hunter supporting its Cardiff, Waratah and Scone residential aged care locations as well as home visits with HammondCare At Home.

Some volunteers have had to temporarily withdrawn their services due to COVID-19 restrictions. Many of these volunteers have become visitor concierges since March, assisting HammondCare put in place screening services at all its resident aged care homes so carefully controlled visits can continue, in accordance with Australian Government guidelines.