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Charity book store is Hobart's hidden treasure

A community of book-loving volunteers and customers raised over $55k through donated book sales last year for Red Cross services in Tasmania.

Friday August 4, 2017

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Hardly a day goes by that somebody doesn't say how much they enjoy the shop.

There's nothing quite like stepping into the Red Cross book store on Melville Street and exploring the myriad books that line the walls from floor to ceiling. The store is full of heart, thanks to the people behind it. Run entirely by volunteers, they raised over $55k last year alone, with all profits going towards Red Cross services in Tasmania.  

94 year-old Chris Welling is one of the 28 volunteers who keep the store running. She's been there since it opened 35 years ago. Volunteering at the store combines many of her interests.

"I love books, I love reading, I love the company, the friends I've made and I like working for Red Cross," she says.

The volunteers have become a close-knit community.

"You always know that they're there for you," says Chris. "They look after me especially because I'm the older one. I look forward to my day there."

They're also exceptionally proud of the work they do, from sorting through all the donated books to providing an inviting and welcoming store for customers.

"We do get some very nice books. People donate their books and don't realise that sometimes they're worth a lot of money. If we're puzzled and if we think a book is worth quite a bit we seek advice or a book dealer might buy it for a big price. Occasionally we'll get some treasure. That's quite a thrill."

Recently they discovered an uncorrected proof of Ian Fleming's last James Bond novel, fetching them $400 at a book fair.

Christine Kaye has also been volunteering at the store since it first began in 1982. It was her love of books that brought her to Red Cross.

Despite the rise of the internet and e-books Christine hasn't noticed a change in the number of people buying books.

"People are still coming in, the number of customers certainly hasn't dropped off. Some people say they use e-books but they still come in for books - book lovers will always love books.

"Hardly a day goes by that somebody doesn't say how much they enjoy the shop," adds Christine.

"Two or three might meet there together to discuss books with each other and us and leave with a box of books. It's a friendly meeting place. It's really quite special."

The Red Cross book store is alongside the Red Cross office at 40 Melville Street Hobart, open Monday to Friday 9:30am - 4pm. Phone 03 6235 6066. All proceeds from the book store help support Red Cross humanitarian activities.