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Paper books still exist and their sales are helping feed the hungry

Milwaukee’s largest annual used book sale took place in the Yankee Hill area from August 4 to 8 at the Cathedral Church of All Saints.

Close to 40,000 books were available for purchase to raise funds that help fight hunger in the Milwaukee area and beyond. In its 36th year, avid readers look forward to the Hunger Book sale every summer, which has collected more than $500,000 since it began. All the event planning and management requires a dedicated group of several dozen volunteers to organize and price the donated reading materials.

“The Hunger Book Sale committee spends most of the summer preparing the books for the sale. We sort and price all the book individually starting right after school is out,” said Suzanne Cornell from the Cathedral Church of All Saints. “So by the time the actual sale is on we have worked seven weeks getting ready.”

Cornell has managed and led the annual event for the better part of the past three decades. Most of the volunteers are members of the parish but many are a combination of book lovers and people willing to do the work to help the cause. The sale included works of fiction, nonfiction, foreign language, poetry, cookbooks, religious, and children’s books, with CDs, VHS, audio books, and DVDs.

The idea of the book sale started 36 years ago when the Interchange Food Pantry was being formed, comprised of the eight downtown churches. Each church in the group was asked to donate a certain amount of money to the newly formed organization. Joan Nason, a member of All Saints, was a book lover and had some knowledge of valuable books, so she proposed the idea to the vestry to raise money with a used book sale. That first sale brought in $1,000 in 1981, the total for 2017’s sales went above $21,000.

“A couple things surprise about the sale, like how many people show up to help weeks prior to the sale for sorting and pricing the books,” added Cornell. “And this year, more than ever, customers at the sale came up to me and thanked me for the sale itself. These were regular customers who plan their calendars around the sale, buying books everyday, but also wanting to support the cause.”

From the 2016 Hunger Book Sale proceeds, $17,000 was donated to:

  • 4 free meal sites: The Gathering, St. Benedict’s Community Meal, All Saints’ Catholic Church, and St. John’s Cathedral Open Door Café
  • 6 food distribution agencies and pantries: Interchange Food Pantries, Feeding America, Hunger Task Force, Jewish Community Pantry, Rescue Mission Holiday Meals, and Salvation Army Summer Lunch Program
  • 6 local organizations with food related programs: Sojourner Truth House, Aids Resource Center, Cathedral Women’s Center, Our Next Generation Homework Club, Neighborhood House, and Repairers of the Breach
  • 3 charities fighting hunger in the world: Diocese of Milwaukee special projects in Haiti, and Newala and through the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund.

The sheer volume of books donated and sold highlights the fact that Apple’s iPad has not completely supplanted a love of reading paper books. Mobile devices have helped make pricing the books easier, by looking up their value online. But Cornell has seen technology affect donations on books of fiction.

“Recently the number of fiction books has deceased, but this year it was really obvious,” noted Cornell. “I think that nonfiction is still the same amount of book because readers want to keep the books for reference, which is not the case with most fiction.”

© Photo

Lee Matz

About The Author

Lee Matz

Former Creative Director and Photojournalist for the Milwaukee Business Journal, Lee brings his years of international experience as a foreign correspondent in Asia and Europe. His list of awards include top honors from the Milwaukee Press Club. Lee proudly uses MCTS as the exclusive mode of transportation for covering all his news reports.

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