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Volunteers key to book fair success

bookfair2014How many Northfielders does it take to hold a book fair?
A lot.

That’s what Carolyn Sanford and Kathy Tezla, this year’s co-chairs of the Northfield Hospital Auxiliary’s Great Northfield, Minn. Book Raid, have discovered.

Since stepping forward to coordinate the auxiliary’s 53rd annual event, April 22-26, at the Northfield Ice Arena, they have been overwhelmed by the number of people and the flood of goodwill that surrounds this all-volunteer undertaking.

“We are simply amazed and delighted to see the energy and enthusiasm this community has for this event,” said Carolyn Sanford, a retired Carleton College librarian. “As new co-chairs, we are learning as we go, but all of the ‘helping hands’ make this a great experience.”

They estimate there are some 300 people who converge on the ice arena in April to make this one of the community’s most successful fundraisers. Among them are the Northfield Boy Scouts who provide curbside service on Saturdays when books are being donated. There are the Northfield High School football players who lug boxes from the storage garage to the ice arena in preparation for sorting. There are the St. Olaf’s men’s hockey players who signed on this year to move books during the sorting period. And then are those on a long list of loyal volunteers who resurface every April to work side-by-side with good friends. Some schedule their return trips from wintering in Arizona to work the book fair.

Carolyn and Kathy have discovered for most volunteers the book fair is both an expression of civic pride and an annual reunion for those who share a common passion for books and Northfield Hospital & Clinics

Take Anna Mae Sjogren, for instance. Her tour of duty began many, many years ago when past book fair chairs, Pat Lamb and the late Ellie Hansen, recruited her. Now the book fair has become Anna Mae’s fifth season: summer, fall, winter, spring and the Great Northfield, Minn. Book Raid.

She devotes about 80 hours over two weeks prior to the sale, arranging her tables so there is order, a flow and easy access to more books. It’s hard work, but she sees it as an investment in an important community resource, Northfield Hospital & Clinics. This year funds raised at the book fair will benefit the hospital’s Cancer Care & Infusion Center.

“I love it. I just love it,” said Anna Mae. “I think of all the money we make and all the good that we do with it. That’s what keeps me volunteering.”

Kathy Tezla says that Anna Mae’s commitment is shared by many.

“Many, many people have a personal investment in the success of the book fair,” Kathy said. “What they do year-in and year-out is nothing short of miraculous. It speaks to the high, high level of civic engagement here in Northfield.”

The book fair is a great fit for his hockey players, according to Sean Goldsworthy, St. Olaf College hockey coach. The players have strong backs — not all volunteers do — and they know their way around the ice arena.

“I think it’s healthy to have our guys involved in the community,” he said.

Clark Webster, a local Boy Scout leader, said the event is a natural for scouts who are pursuing service hours as a scout requirement.

When the dust settles on a furious two weeks of sorting, 220 book-laden tables will blanket the floor of the Northfield Ice Arena, sagging from the inventory that reflects the buying interests of the community. And then the sale begins.

The good the Auxiliary donations do includes a long list of capital items purchased for Northfield Hospital over the years with proceeds from the book fairs. This includes their $100,000 pledge that helped launch the Breast Care Center and the current $150,000 pledge to create the space for the Cancer Care & Infusion Center.

If you would like to learn more about the Northfield Hospital Auxiliary, the Great Northfield, Minn. Book Raid, or the Cancer Care & Infusion Center, go to www.northfieldhospital.org.