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Last donation sorted

The story of sorting books into 29 categories for two decades has reached the satisfying final page for National Heart Foundation [NHF] Wairarapa volunteers.

A donation of $7400 last month to the NHF from the Wairarapa Book Sale trust account is the last paragraph of a community fundraising initiative that ran from 1996 to 2018.

It began as a one-off project in 1996 – a combined Heart Foundation-Rotary fundraiser that made $6000, former NHF Wairarapa branch chairman Peter Debney said.

“It continued to where over $550,000 was raised from what became the annual Wairarapa NHF book sales, held during April in Greytown and over Labour Weekend in Masterton.”

From sorting books in someone’s garage, a lack of space led to a move to a woolstore on Ngaumutawa Rd. Fumes at the store pushed the book sale team out to Opaki Racecourse north of Masterton until the demolition of the space under the old grandstand.

The volunteers then used the old maternity annexe at Wairarapa Hospital for their sorting and storage of books for the next 15 years.

Volunteers included librarians, public service managers, farmers, shepherds, cobblers, engineers, teachers and other occupations, Debney said.

Every Thursday, a team of 12-15 volunteers sorted books into 29 categories including fiction, antiques, science fiction, nostalgia and New Zealand history.

“People would take a lot of pride in their section,” he said. “We became able to spot special books, such as ones that should be passed on to local organisations for their archives.”

Books unsuitable for resale ended up at the council’s paper recycling depot.

The “best years” – 2005 to 2015 – saw 120,000 to 150,000 items donated each year.

The sales included jigsaw puzzles and magazines, with volunteers witnessing the evolution from 33s, 45s and 78s [records], to cassette tapes, to CDs, and from video cassettes to DVDs.

“Dictionaries and reference books were always very popular at the sales,” Debney said. “The nostalgia section would have buyers sharing stories from the past with volunteers.”

Masterton Town Hall was the sale venue until it closed in 2016, with Masterton Intermediate School offering its school hall as a replacement.

The Colour Centre shop in Masterton was for many years a drop-off point for book donations by the public.

Running alongside the book sales was work by John Allan, a long-time volunteer who listed the more valuable books on TradeMe from 2003.

Some first and special editions of books handled by Allan were sold through Christie’s Auction House in London.

“One, a New Zealand historical compilation achieved Stg900 [NZ$1700] but that was exceptional,” Debney said.

Allan was acknowledged by book dealers and collectors nationally and on occasion, achieved TradeMe book sales annually that equalled the total raised at the annual NHF sales.

Eventually, issues relating to health and safety with the deterioration of the hospital building and the age and attrition of volunteers “forced the decision that it was time for the Wairarapa NHF branch to wind up its annual book sales”, Debney said.

The Wairarapa branch held its final monster book sale in 2018 at the Trust House Memorial Stadium in Masterton.

Masterton’s Host Waipoua Lions Club took on the book sale mantle and still runs a permanent Saturday sale at Solway Showgrounds.

Last month, a final donation of more than $7400 from a trust account of the Wairarapa NHF book sales team was transferred to the NHF, Debney said.

“Wairarapa volunteers hope the NHF will continue to build on community contributions in its future promotion of heart health research and services.”

The Wairarapa team could be proud of what they achieved, he said.

“Volunteering helps people stay out there and be engaged within their communities. There was lots of leg pulling and laughs.

“The book sales kept everyone involved young at heart.”

The Wairarapa Heart Help Group meets every 2nd Tuesday of the month, Wairarapa Community Centre, 41 Perry St,
Masterton. Free.
Call 027 204 2879.

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