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Rotary Club’s giant book sale story a real page-turner

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Troy Shantz

Book lovers are preparing for the big one — the Rotary Club of Sarnia Bluewaterland’s giant book sale.

“Last year there was 200 or 300 waiting for the doors to open,” said John Girard, one of 30 Rotarians behind the event at Bayside Mall.

“At 8:30 a.m. they are lined up down to the fountain.”

A staggering 40,000 books have been sorted and are ready for sale at the 16th annual event running, which runs Jan. 17-19.

Volumes sell for $1 or $2 each on Friday and Saturday, with the remaining books available for $5 a bag on Sunday, said organizer Camilla McGill.

“People love this sale. They wait for it and they come. It’s everybody… all walks of life.”

All the books are donated and processing is a yearlong affair. Organizers estimate the labour required would keep one person employed 40 hours a week for an entire year.

Instead, an army of 50 volunteers collect, sort and distribute for the three-day event, and dozens of tables are set-up by Great Lakes Secondary School wrestling team.

Last year, more than $27,000 was raised and supported about 20 local projects and non-profits.

“(And) most people spend less than $10,” McGill said.

In recent years, Bayside has offered three storefronts for the cause, with two of them transformed into informal sorting areas for volunteers combing through mountains of novels, hardcovers and children’s books.

But a looming deal between the building’s new owner and Lambton County, which would see part of the downtown mall converted to apartments and storefronts, has Rotarians concerned about the future.

“We haven’t started (searching) yet although it’s always on our minds, because we need a large space. We would be very happy if someone in the community came forward,” said McGill.

“And of course it needs to be a location that doesn’t cost much money.”

Rent and utilities are free at Bayside and keeping costs down is essential for success, she said.

“If we paid the regular rent for a place like this… and we had to pay even minimum wage for the sorters, we would not have the book sale.”



WHAT: The Rotary Club of Sarnia Bluewaterland’s 16th annual book sale

WHERE: Bayside Centre, 150 Christina St. North

WHEN: Friday, Jan. 17, 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 18, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan 19, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. (On Sunday, fill a bag for $5)

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