That’s the secret behind a gem of a charity book stall in Colne that has become a Mecca for book lovers from across the county and raised a staggering £26,000 for the local branch of the Samaritans last year.
“The book stall is something we believe in passionately and we see on a daily basis how much of a difference it makes within our community - not just by the money it raises but by being there for people to drop by and say hello,” says Jilly Sandamas, volunteer manager of the Samaritans Pendle, Burnley, Craven and Rossendale book stall, located in Colne’s bustling Market Hall.
“For many, many people, the Samaritans are anonymous, invisible people at the end of a phone line but we’re showing there’s another side to us - we’re approachable and here to help, whether it’s finding you the right book, a friendly chat for five minutes or signposting you to Samaritan services.”
And the ethos behind the stall is certainly working as it is estimated around 1,000 books a week are sold to visitors of all ages and backgrounds - from the avid collector to tiny tots like little Isaac, who is pictured below.
Jilly, who became a Samaritans volunteer eight years ago following a personal tragedy, heads a dedicated and knowledgeable team of eight volunteers who man the stall and rotate the 5,000-plus books that are on display at any one time - from novels, to academic texts, children’s books to local interest books and everything in-between!
“The vast majority of our books are on sale for 50p,” says Jilly, “so we find that people will often return them to us to sell again.
“We also help people who find they have to clear out a lot of books which can be a daunting prospect for them - whether they’re downsizing or going into care, or even a family that is faced with shelves of books following a bereavement.
“If people get in touch with us, we’ll come and collect the books, whatever condition they’re in - in some cases we’ve even packed them - and take them back to the book shop with us. It can be a difficult task, parting with books that have been treasured over the years or that may hold special memories and we always pledge to make sure the books are looked after well and help make money for the charity.”
And there’s been a huge variety of books passing through the shelves on their way to new homes - from the ever popular local history booklets (even Robert Neill’s rare Song of Sunrise from the 1950s) and an 1860s guide to the weaving industry in Pendle to the very latest chick lit and 50 Shades of Grey series.
It’s certainly come a long way from that day nine years ago when a couple of optimistic Samaritan volunteers with a great idea arrived at the market with half a dozen lettuce boxes filled with a selection of paperback and hardback books the charity had been donated and arrived back at the branch with £16.50 for their efforts.