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Shelter House holds first full book sale in two years

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Shelter House hold an annual book sale fundraiser to support their work with the homeless community. Donations of books, CDs, puzzles and more have arrived over the past month in preparation for the sale.

Dimia Burrel

The Shelter House book sale is advertised outside the Iowa Classic Car Museum in Coralville on Thursday, March 24, 2022


Volunteers worked hard unpacking and stacking thousands of books on Wednesday in preparation for Shelter House’s annual book sale.

While some volunteers braved the wet and cold March weather to help the endless line of cars unload their donations of books, puzzles, CDs, DVDs and vinyl records, others drove back and forth to through the warehouse sorting the donations into categories.

Shelter House is an emergency shelter for people in acute homelessness, but also offers programs such as rapid rehousing and eviction prevention.

Christine Rallstondirector of development and director of communications for Shelter House, said the organization organizes fundraisers throughout the year, some like book sales benefiting their work at all levels.

“These funds go to general operations, which means its programmatic support, its salary support, keeping the lights on, and paying for our utilities because we have large buildings,” Ralston said. ” So that’s it. It supports the whole organization.

The Shelter House book sale will take place March 26-27 at its location on Quarry Road in Coralville.

The sale began 25 years ago when it was established by Trinity Episcopal Church with profits going to Shelter House, but over time Shelter House took over the operation.

With the help of volunteers and the Book Sale Committee, the main volunteers responsible for the sale, Shelter House has been accepting donations from the public and preparing for this year’s event since February 14.

Donna Hirst has volunteered with Shelter House for over 15 years and is a member of the book sales committee.

She said last year the sale raised $21,000 – although for her, engaging with the community is just as fulfilling. Hirst’s favorite part is seeing all the donated books.

“You take a bag of books and each book is a romance novel, you take another box of books down the line and there aren’t two books on the same subject,” Hirst said. “It’s very interesting while you’re working with the books, imagining what the donors look like.”

In 2020 the book sale was canceled completely and in 2021 the sale was formatted differently to avoid in-person contact between attendees and organizers. The shelter previously grouped books by category and sold the items in bags – now that the sale will finally be held in person, with long rows of tables allowing shoppers to directly pick out the items for themselves.

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Ralston is thrilled that the community is coming to support the organization safely. Masks will be mandatory and available on site for those who do not have one. She said she believed the book sale was an opportunity to bring their community of supporters together again.

“I think selling books is always exciting, but it’s a whole different level of excitement for people who have worked,” Ralston said.

Volunteer Coordinator Angelique Frier just started her year-long role in October and immediately got to work helping prepare for the annual sale. She said wherever the volunteers are, she will be there.

“I just do whatever is necessary,” Frier said. “If books need to be sorted, I’ll come. I help get snacks for the volunteers and clean the tables.”

The books have been divided into typical sections like fiction and non-fiction, but there are also entire tables devoted to more unique topics like law, gardening, ethnic studies, and Iowa. Some of the titles include classics like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, to other best-sellers, such as The 7 ½ deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.

In addition to books, there are a large number of DVDs, CDs and vinyl records for sale as well as an entire table full of puzzles. The variety is great enough that volunteers have to constantly restock and move items around throughout the day as there is no more room on the tables.

The purpose of the book sale is ultimately to raise funds for the work of Shelter House, thereby improving the quality of life for those in need.

“Anyone can get involved in supporting the organization,” Ralston said. “It’s literally dollar for dollar. People can do the smallest thing and it all adds up. It really is.