Chilliwack Rotary book sale is a story of giving

Thousands of books sold equals a better way of life for those in Chilliwack

Rotarians sort and price books in preparation for their annual book sale. The week-long event kicks off this Sunday at Chilliwack Mall.

Rotarians sort and price books in preparation for their annual book sale. The week-long event kicks off this Sunday at Chilliwack Mall.

Books upon books upon books.

If you’ve ever wondered what hides inside the Rotary Building at Townsend Park, there’s your answer.

Tens of thousands of books.

They’re stacked to ceiling, piled from wall to wall. They’ve been sorted, priced and are all ready for sale. It’s a gold mine, of sorts. But unlike the famously greedy Scrooge McDuck, the people in charge of this vault have only the best intentions.

Those people are Rotarians, and their efforts help fund many of the perks of living in Chilliwack.

As a group stays busy flipping through paperbacks from cover to cover, and tossing them into the bins marked with different genres, they talk about the projects they’ve helped to complete over the years. Many of them are the jewels of the town — the Great Blue Heron Reserve, the Rotary Hall at the Chilliwack Cultural, and the beautiful Rotary Trails at Vedder and Peach Creek.

Others are more targeted to needs, like the Christmas dinners they provide at Bernard elementary, the industrial coffee machine at the Salvation Army, and a new electric stove for Ann Davis Transition Society.

They also provide $35,000 in educational scholarships, and offer breakfast programs at four different local schools.

And that’s just a small sample of the good work they do. And much of the money they funnel back into the community comes directly from these books. Each year, they cart out about 80,000 titles, all carefully sorted and priced at bargain basement prices. Soft covers generally are priced at $2, hardcovers at $3. Specialty books may be more, but coffee table books that were once priced at $80 will be priced in the $5 range.

It’s hard to beat prices like that, and with 30 years of sales under their belt, the Chilliwack Rotary is prepared for the onslaught of buyers. For one week, a hefty team of volunteers mans hundreds of tables at the Chilliwack Mall, all laid out for book lovers of all backgrounds.

It begins with a flurry of activity on Sunday morning, when the mall’s doors are opened at 7 a.m. Typically, devoted book buyers arrives well before then, lining up in the dark to take advantage of the early shopping hours, and biggest supply.

And you never know what you’ll find among the tables, says Bill Rachar, book sale chair.

“It’s like a treasure hunt,” he says.

But there are a few things you won’t find. That includes ripped and damaged books, out-of-date manuals, or endless piles of magazines. In order to offer the best quality and give shoppers the biggest bang for their buck, the Rotary does not accept any of those things, even beloved National Geographics or Readers Digest.

There just isn’t a market for them, Rachar explains.

And the volunteers are kept busy enough, with the work of keeping the books organized through the year. While some of the Rotarians work on mass sorting, others work on organizing books by author, subject and genre, and pricing.

This is their largest fundraiser of the year, and it’s the one that takes the most people power with about 5,000 volunteer hours put in annually. Volunteers are constantly in and out of the building, delivering loads from the drop bins around town, planning out their marketing, and keeping each other entertained.

The majority of volunteers are Rotarians, but they are open to all volunteers — as long as they are hard workers.

This year, there will be an extra bonus for buyers. The space most recently occupied by Toys R Us is being used for multimedia, including an area for 2,500 vinyl records. But therein will lie a real treasure hunt.

The didn’t have a volunteer to sort through the pile, so buyers will have to come with a keen eye. There will also be some CDs and DVDs, but no VHS.

Like the magazines, they are not hot commodities anymore, and won’t be accepted or sold at the sale.

The Rotary Book Sale is being held at the Chilliwack Mall this year, and opens on Sunday, Oct. 18 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The sale runs whenever the mall is open through to Saturday, Oct. 24.

Regular mall hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except on Thursdays and Fridays when it’s open until 9 p.m.