Our last book sale

Our last, and we do mean last, mammoth charity book sale is over, and Honey and I are so glad. We’re exhausted.

This was our seventh big book sale in four years, and the only one to end with giving away all the leftover books. That part was really fun, especially because there are some people, believe it or not, who can ill afford to buy books even at 50 cents or a dollar apiece.

It was four years ago we heard from Susan Badgley Hinerman that she was giving up the book sale she ran in Chester.

“Where are we going to get our books?” Honey wailed.

“Do your own book sale,” Susan said.

So, we did. And even though there was a selfish reason for doing it – finding history and biography for me and mysteries for Honey – all the money, Honey said, should go to some higher cause. She chose Tenwek Mission Hospital in Kenya because some years ago she had heard Tenwek surgeon Dr. Russ White speak at Northside Community Church. Dr. White, the 2012 recipient of the ACS/Pfizer Surgical Humanitarian Award, impressed Honey with his stories of operating at a hospital in the heart of Africa with limited facilities, removing spears from chests, repairing hearts, and other surgeries. Even though he is a thoracic surgeon, he taught himself to do corrective harelip surgery on children, for instance. One time an assistant had to take over a surgery temporarily because the patient needed a blood transfusion, and Dr. White was the only available match.

Honey corresponded with Dr. White by email, asking each year what was the current need at the hospital. Last year it was to help rebuild the kitchen and laundry after a fire. After our second sale, Dr. White emailed that Tenwek need a transfusion blood warmer that cost $1,400. Honey got chills: our sale had raised exactly $1,400.

HOW DID WE GET BOOKS? At first, Honey asked for leftover books from yard sales and church rummage sales. Estates donated the dear departeds’ collections. Jeff Hendrickson and Sarah Vodrey donated 154 boxes of wonderful new books left from their former retail bookstore, Best Books First. We picked up truckloads from Swaney Library in New Cumberland and Carnegie Library in East Liverpool as they culled their collections. People attending the sales often brought as many as they bought.

As word got around, the challenge became not getting books, but having the time and energy to pick up and process them. Honey laboriously sorted and labeled boxes of books over the past 12 months on days it was warm enough to work in our barn.

This sale was our biggest ever: 19 truckloads of books, hauled by seven volunteers with trucks, 75 tables (46 borrowed from friends), and 15,000 to 20,000 books filling the church gym, all sorted, laid out and labeled for the convenience of the buyers.

Our whole family pitched in at sale time, including Honey’s two sisters from Weirton, and 20 or more volunteers, mostly from the church.

When the book sale opened Thursday morning, the first of three sale days, people swarmed in and the books began to go out. One couple from Poland, Ohio, bought 673 popular novels in softback to give to patients in nursing homes.

A HALF DOZEN book resellers came from as far as Follansbee, New Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, some using their phones to scan titles.

As buyers checked out, Honey told them to come back Sunday after church or Monday morning for what she playfully called a “free for all,” to take whatever books were left, for free.

It was a great success. Instead of us hauling books to the recycler in Toronto at three cents a pound – about enough to pay for the gas to haul them – people took books home by the box, bag and carload. One man overloaded his van, planning to do a book sale for an animal shelter. Another took books for a library book sale. Animal books went to the wildlife center at Beaver Creek. One man took five loads in his SUV, planning to give them away at his thrift store.

This sale raised $4,700, bringing the total for Tenwek over the past four years to more than $15,000. The charitable cause is great, but for Honey and me, and for a lot of our volunteers, the bonus was putting thousands of real books into the hands of people who just love to read.


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