Wednesday, June 19, 2024




Recently, Caleb Summerfelt presented at our lunchtime Rotary meeting. It was an extraordinary meeting, highlighted by Caleb’s presentation, which focused on the topic “Can One Person Make a Difference?”

Courtenay Rotary Club is the oldest Rotary Club in the Comox Valley, which currently has a population approaching 70,000.  In its 87th year of service to the Comox Valley, the Club has taken on many community projects, and its largest fundraiser for several years continues to be the very well-received Courtenay Rotary Book Sale.

The sale has taken on many forms over the past few years due to changing circumstances of availability, storage, and volunteer commitment.  Presently, we occupy the abandoned basement file storage space of the old St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox.  We do pay rent of over $1100/month but are grateful to have a semi-permanent home.  This permits our volunteers to sort books into “library-like” order.  Our patrons frequently turn up with the list of books they are seeking, and we witness their delight at finding their treasures for just $3 apiece.  Children also arrive clutching their allowance and ask to be shown to the shelves displaying an array of their favourite genres or author.

Currently, this space houses almost 50,000 books in an amazingly well-appointed area.  We are sustained by a small army of volunteers who are not only Rotarians but others in the community who share a love of books and a commitment to making our community a better place to live.

Consider just one book and its influence on individuals and community.

A child may outgrow a favourite book and donate it to Rotary through one of the many book deposit boxes around the community.  From there, dedicated volunteers regularly empty the book deposit boxes and bring the contents to the site.  The books are brought to the sorting area, where volunteers sift through and separate the books into Fiction and non-fiction.  The donated children’s book is further sorted into the specific children’s box.  From there, another volunteer takes the various subject boxes out to the floor for more volunteers to either shelve or store for future use.

Volunteers work all days of the week, but the sorters and shelvers come in every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning all year.  Some volunteers work only in Fiction, while others are in charge of specific Non-Fiction sections.  We have all benefited from those volunteers who have had experience in actual book stores or libraries and are able to teach us the finer points of shelving.  This is all done to best promote the books and attract buyers.  Over time, the volunteers develop a keen sense of what sells in our community so we can maximize our profits.  We do have to throw out a lot of books, which distresses many of us.  Despite our best efforts, we have not found a way to recycle or donate books we cannot use, and we must pay to dump them into the landfill.  Our younger, stronger Rotarians volunteer on the days we must fill the dumpster, and they get the job done in short order.

During Covid, we were not allowed access to the site as St. Joseph’s is a Long-Term Care Hospital.  As soon as we were able, we renewed our Book Sale and were gratified that the public returned with enthusiasm even though we could only orchestrate two-day weekend sales due to nearby construction.  Our current goal is to have 7 sales each year, which is a testimony to the dedication of our volunteers.  Sales are manned by Rotarians, although volunteers come in to help re-shelve during the busiest periods of the weekend.  Book Sale weekends are exhausting but gratifying.  Our last two-day sale brought in over $14,000.  Since 2014, Book Sale revenues have topped well over $500,000.

So, the little donated children’s book was placed on the shelves, discovered, and purchased during the next sale.  Another child will enjoy that book until it is time for something more advanced, and the little book will be donated back into the Rotary system.  So, one little book will not only enrich the lives of several children, but the sale of that one book over and over will contribute to funding projects in our community.  One book can make a difference!

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