The East Texas Baptist University team won first place during the 19th annual Corporate Spelling Bee fundraiser for the Marshall Harrison County Literacy Council.

ETBU’s team consisted of Marty Warren, Bryan Mead and Lauran Silas, with the Marshall Rotary team, consisting of Wyndi Veigel, Jordan Shaw and Robert Coleman taking home second place.

This year’s spelling bee looked different than in past years with the whole event being held online and streamed through social media.

Director of the Literacy Council Karen Bickerdike said that she was extremely excited with how well the event went, considering the new online platform.

“It went great; I really don’t think it could have gone better,” she said.

Members of each of the eight participating teams met independently and participated in the competition via zoom along with the judges and word callers.

Instead of judging by whose team cheered this loudest, this year’s coveted spirit stick award — given to the Marshall Rotary Club — was given out based on the number of comments and shares made by community members during the event in favor of a specific team.

With concerns over the spread of COVID-19, Bickerdike said that the council considered cancelling the event completely for 2020 but was encouraged to host an altered version by the community.

“The literacy council has been so encouraged by how the community has embraced us with this new platform,” she said, “We received a lot of community support to go ahead with the 19th year.”

Bickerdike said that the council is already going to start planning of the next Corporate Spelling Bee, with big plans for the fundraiser’s 20th anniversary.

The annual event helps to support the work of the Marshall Harrison County Literacy Council, which provides a number of free services to adults seeking to reach their literacy goals. These services include basic literacy education, tutors for GED and English as a second language, and even assistance for citizenship tests.

All tutors who work with the literacy council are volunteers, and each person received specialized training for their job. Bickerdike said that the literacy council is always looking for more volunteers, and that anyone interested in becoming a tutor with the council can contact them at (903) 935-0962.