Question: “When is a fundraiser not a fundraiser?”
Answer (as provided by a smart aleck who shall remain nameless): “When nobody shows up at your fundraising event.”
But “nobody showing up at your fundraising event” certainly doesn’t describe this Saturday’s Holiday Book and Gift Boutique sponsored by the Port Hueneme Friends of the Library.
Every year, for the past five years, hundreds of bargain hunters (and not just folks from Port Hueneme) crowd the specially marked tables (25 cents, 50 cents, $1, $3-$5 and $10) inside the Ray D. Prueter Library, 510 Park Ave., Port Hueneme, from noon to 3 p.m.
The Port Hueneme Friends, you see, keep dreaming of a green Christmas. Every year, our “Bookies” (volunteers who sort, clean and price used books) set aside Christmas novels, boxed sets, teen and children’s books, holiday crafting magazines and the most recent cookbooks for the sale on the first Saturday in December.
It all started in 2008, when the Port Hueneme Friends decided to do something special for the community right before the holidays.
In her Port Hueneme Pilot column, city librarian Cathy Thomason once talked about the value of presenting books as Christmas gifts. In fact, she shared her own childhood experience with a beautiful anthology of children’s literature.
She said she kept returning to read her favorite Little Red Hen story so many times that the hardback eventually fell to pieces. How many of you can relate?
Given the financial downturn closing out 2008 as well, it was especially important to the Port Hueneme Friends that parents desiring to share a cherished volume with an offspring could find an affordable option at our sale. Most of our stiff-covered children’s books cost less than a dollar. Buying new at a bookstore could well run into double digits.
In addition, our adult customers were delighted with a matchless value-added aspect of biblio-stocking stuffers. They realized, like Thomason, that books, especially if read aloud, rarely fall out of favor or get broken before Christmas or Hanukkah is over.
And while books alone would have flown off the tables, the Port Hueneme Friends believed they could expand the outreach to further ease the financial burden of a largely blue-collar community.
You see, while Port Hueneme may seem like just a sleepy little beach town to Ventura County, demographically, it is unique. Our population of 21,856 seems to be concentrated at the age spectrum’s extreme endpoints.
Port Hueneme residents are either very young children (and their parents) or over-65 retirees. The middle of the range, which is usually packed with individuals in their peak earning years, barely exists in Port Hueneme. Such a singularity, however, comes with a significant economic disadvantage.
According to city data, the estimated per capita income for Port Hueneme residents in 2011 was $22,208, making the “Friendly City by the Sea” one of the most financially challenged municipalities in Ventura County.
So we asked ourselves, “How can we be of help?” The answer we found would prove as beneficial to us as it would to our customers.
During November, we (and all of our friends, and friends of our friends) scour our jewelry boxes, closets, toy chests, video or DVD collections and garages in search of nearly new yet gift-quality treasures — something that might make the perfect inexpensive present.
Those of us staffing the tables during the sale particularly look forward to assisting our fledgling shoppers. These youngsters show up, their quarters and dimes tucked securely into a back pocket or purse, with a long list of people to buy for — many of whom are shopping as well.
We not only assure them that we can be counted on to keep their acquisitions secret, but we also provide bags so that mommy and daddy will be suitably surprised come Dec. 25.
In addition, the naming of the “white elephant in the room” has become an unexpected tradition as well. Each year we find a contribution that we, collectively, are quite positive will never find a buyer — at least not somebody in his or her right mind.
Last year, the designated white elephant was a toilet plunger decorated in appropriate greenery for display on St. Patrick’s Day. Sure enough, one of our adult consumers snapped it up, allowing that it would be ideal for some unsuspecting Irish relative.
So whether you’re focused on the wearin’ or the savin’ of the green this Saturday afternoon, the Port Hueneme Library is the place to be.
And as to a more appropriate answer to the question posed in the initial paragraph, “When is a fundraiser not a fundraiser,” how about this? It certainly can’t be considered a fundraiser when charity begins at home.