Volunteers meet in the old maternity ward behind Wairarapa hospital to sort through donated books every Thursday. Group spokesman Peter Debney, Right. PHOTO/CAL ROBERTS
Wairarapa volunteers are holding one last book sale at the end of April after more than two decades of raising more than half a million dollars for the Heart Foundation.
The group of locals has been supporting Heart Foundation activities in the region by reselling donated books for 22 years.
Spokesman for the group of volunteers, Peter Debney, said what started as a garage project quickly outgrew its confines.
The volume of books being donated meant they first had to move to be stored in a wool shed on Ngaumutawa Rd, then to the stables at the Opaki racecourse.
Finally, the books moved in to the old maternity ward behind Wairarapa hospital.
The group had been operating out of the ward for the last 15 years but the property’s deteriorating condition means it’s now time to go.
Mr Debney said there were more than 40,000 categorised books in the building.
A team of up to 15 volunteers meets every Thursday to sort through donations form the wider Wairarapa community.
The group categorises donations and sells books in Greytown, Masterton and online.
John Allen and Joy Eccles were two of the longest serving volunteers.
Both shared a love of books. Mrs Eccles got involved when her husband started the operation with others in 1996.
Mr Allen realised he had a knack for selling books after flipping one for $10. He now operates the group’s TradeMe account.
One donated book went to auction at Christies in the London, selling for stg900 ($1701NZD).
“It was an English book published around 1900.
“It was only worth so much because it had its original dust jacket.”
The old maternity ward had fallen into disrepair long before the group moved in, but it did the job until last year when it was deemed no longer safe to occupy by the property’s owners last year.
Rather than try and find a new home for the massive collection of books, the group has decided to throw one last book sale.
Considering the age of volunteers, and the amount of manual labour required to move heavy boxes each week, Mr Debney said it was about time to shut down the operation.
“This will be our swansong.”
The end was emotional for the volunteers — who will be staying in touch once their regular Thursday missions stop.
“This has become a part of our lifestyle over the years,” Mr Debney said.
Heart Foundation chief executive Tony Duncan said the group of volunteers had taken a simple idea and created an innovative approach to local fundraising.
“They have been more than just fundraisers, they have been partners to the Heart Foundation.
Mr Duncan thanked the volunteers for supporting heart health in the region.
“In particular, I’d like to thank them for their generous support of our research programme and for the funding of training for our New Zealand cardiologists.”
Because the books keep on coming, Mr Debney is hopeful another community group with the right type of storage facilities will take up the cause.
“What’s going to happen to the books next year?”
The group said their work was supported by many other organisations, schools and businesses who helped in some way to get books to and from the ward.
The book sale will take place over three days at the War Memorial Stadium, starting Friday April 27, from 2pm. Doors open at 10am on Saturday and Sunday.