Harold Devenport, left, of Waipoua Lions taking delivery of the first of what could be 140,000 second-hand books a year, from Peter and Sandra Debney. PHOTO/STEVE RENDLE

STEVE RENDLE
steve.rendle@age.co.nz

The Masterton Heart Foundation book sales have a new home.

Host Waipoua Lions have taken over the sales and will relocate the operation to Trades Hall No 2 at the Solway Showgrounds.

The book group had spent 15 years in the old Masterton maternity hospital building, but its deteriorating condition forced an end to that – and threatened an end to the sales, when the Lions club stepped in.

Lions’ Harold Devenport admitted at the handover of the event last week, the new base at the showgrounds was where the “old chooks used to hang out”.

“If you go down there at the moment, there are still a few hen coops down there.

“But we are hoping there is space to actually have the sales there as well as storing the books, which will mean we don’t have to move them.”

The surroundings may be a step up, if words from volunteer Bill Reid, who couldn’t be at the final gathering, are anything to go by.

“An asbestos and rat-ridden building … that served our purpose ideally over many years, rent-free and even with a working toilet.” he said of the old maternity hospital, in a message read aloud by his grandson.

Volunteers came from every walk of life – “ex-farmers, engineers, teachers, amateur sleuths and whodunit-ers, needleworkers and scientists, all sharing their knowledge”.

“The average age seemed to be around 75-80 . . . about 1000 years of know-how every Thursday [when book sorting took place].”

The sales have raised around $550,000 over the past 22 years, and last week the Heart Foundation received the final cheque for $32,186.777.

Heart Foundation chief executive officer Tony Duncan described the book group as a case study in how a volunteer group could evolve, praising “the business acumen of this group”.

“What started off in the garage is now looking into digital methods and Trade Me,” he said.

Alongside the annual book sales, volunteer John Allan has listed books on Trade Me, with first and selected special editions sold through Christie’s auction house in London.

As well as regular sales of $100-$200, one historical compilation fetched $1700.

Organiser Peter Debney praised the work of the book sorters who turned out every Thursday, the catering pair of Betty Williams and Jean Lee, and the cleaning crew – the 21 Squadron Air Training Corps – who tidied up after the book sales at the Masterton War Memorial Stadium.

“The challenge for our Wairarapa book team this year has been to secure the support of a community service group to pick up this project and carry it forward,” he said.

“We wish Waipoua Lions every success.”