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Warning: Unless you know words like “jo” and “qi,” you wouldn’t want to go anywhere near the Scrabble boards at Lorelei Anderson’s house.

The 80-year-old from Auburn is the matriarch of what she calls the “Girls’ Scrabble Club,” consisting largely of herself, three daughters and three granddaughters.

They don’t play for money, but each time they gather — as they did about monthly last year — players put a few dollars into a kitty. And as the amount grew past $200 in December, they talked about spending it on a nice lunch out.

But Anderson had a different idea.

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“She said the poor need it more than we do,” said daughter Gail Prange, 61, of Federal Way. “Any of us could afford to go out to lunch.”

So they tucked a check for $210 into a Christmas card and sent it to The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy, where it became one of more than 3,800 donations received in this year’s drive.

The campaign, which opened Thanksgiving Day and concludes this weekend, raised $1,079,307, the second-highest total in the fund’s 34-year history.

Since the fund was created in 1979, it has raised more than $16.5 million for area charities.

Donations to the fund run the gamut, from kids giving allowance money to estates passing along money left in wills.

One donor sent in a $1 bill, then repeated the donation two more times — each time listing someone the gift was in memory of.

On the opposite end of the scale, a $60,000 contribution came from a donor who sent it through a foundation to preserve anonymity.

Some donors enclosed brief messages. “I hope this helps the kids,” wrote an 11-year-old who sent in $25. “Thank you for making this easier for us to do,” wrote a woman who gave $3,000.

A woman in France, who used to live in the Puget Sound area, sent $500 — as she has done in each of the past several years.

Patty Delaney, treasury-services supervisor for The Times, said about 55 percent of the donors have their gifts acknowledged in print, while the rest prefer to remain anonymous.

This year’s drive had a record number of donors, 3,881, and was second only to last year’s $1,159,058 in the amount raised.

In a time of decreased government resources, private donations are vital to social-service organizations.

“The community of The Seattle Times is generous beyond measure,” said Janis Avery, CEO of Treehouse, which assists children in foster care.

She said the fund will help Treehouse ensure that every eighth-grader in foster care in King County this year will have access to an “education specialist,” a type of coach or facilitator.

At the Salvation Army’s Northwest Division, social-service secretary Tom Walker said, “When the chips are down, people give rather than close up. That’s inspiring to me.”

Money from the Times fund, he said, will soon be put to work purchasing food and food cards and providing rent assistance to keep families from becoming homeless.

Anderson, the Auburn Scrabble enthusiast, had given to The Times fund in the past, typically about $50 each year in memory of a deceased friend or relative, such as her husband of 50 years, Ted, who died in 2001.

Her group had already started building the next kitty when they gathered a couple of weeks ago with enough players to keep two Scrabble boards spinning.

Most of these women also play Words With Friends on their phones, so they know handy words to use in tight situations, such as “jo,” meaning sweetheart, and “qi,” a life force or energy.

Angie Pellegrini, 24, a granddaughter of Anderson, is one of the tougher players. As she laid down all her tiles to make “stretchy” for 67 points, she said that even though there’s no money at stake, “We do gloat a lot.”

For Anderson, there’s a special joy in having several generations join together in this effort to help others.

“Some people might say I’m poor, because I shop at Goodwill and Dollar Tree and drive an 11-year-old car,” Anderson said. “But I’ve got everything I need.”

Jack Broom:

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