Dave Obee: Book drive with a twist: Please bring donations to Ogden Point on Saturday

If you have good books to donate to a great cause, we have a spot for them. Bring them to the Breakwater District at Ogden Point this Saturday.

This will not be the usual Times Colonist Book Drive, the annual literacy fundraiser that involves hundreds of volunteers and thousands of people just like you — people eager to donate books and then, two weeks later, buy what others have donated.

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COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of the drive as we know it. It would be far too risky to have volunteers, many of them seniors, gather to sort books. Fifty-person limits and the need for physical distancing — not to mention the fear of COVID-19 — mean the sale itself just wouldn’t work.

We have come up with Plan B. It’s not a perfect plan, but we have to do something if badly needed money is to continue to flow to Vancouver Island school libraries and literacy projects. We are still committed to, with your help, funding literacy on the Island, just as we have every year since 1998.

This year’s plan has come together with the help of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and Russell Books.

The GVHA has donated use of its space, and GVHA staff members have volunteered their time to make the drive work.

After we gather the books, Russell Books will take them to a nearby warehouse for sorting. Russell has agreed to pay for the books — and that payment will probably make up the bulk of the money raised by the Times Colonist Literacy Society this year.

Why Russell Books? Because over the years, Russell has been the largest single buyer of books from our drive. They have spent about a quarter of a million dollars, and that money has been put to work in schools and in literacy organizations throughout our coverage area.

We are well aware that the involvement of a single book dealer might not please everyone, so I will be frank: Without a large-scale buyer with ready cash, this modified book drive would not have happened, and our fundraising opportunities would have been severely hampered.

We will publish a summary of all money we receive, including the amount from Russell Books.

Our plan for Saturday is based on extreme awareness of COVID-19 protocols. Health and safety are top priorities. Our team members will all have masks and gloves, and will work in bubbles to limit contact.

We are asking for donations from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Pier A at The Breakwater District at Ogden Point. The GVHA volunteers will direct traffic in and out of the area — a location chosen so we could minimize the impact on local streets.

When you arrive, stay in your vehicles. Have the books in bags or boxes in the back of your vehicle. Book drive volunteers, including some TC staff members, will take the books from the vehicles and put them into shopping carts.

Those carts will go to Russell Books staff members, who will organize them onto pallets and then place the donations into an on-site warehouse. The carts will be cleaned repeatedly throughout the day.

There will be strict limits on the number of people on site. Please be patient; we cannot have the usual number of volunteers, but we will try to move donors through as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Also, be aware that we can’t handle the volume of donations we would usually accept — so, please, no truckloads of books. If, after this Saturday, there is room for more donations, we’ll try another drive in a month or so.

We have other plans for raising money for literacy; more about that in a week or so. And of course, we are always interested in ideas from you.

I will hope to see you Saturday. I’ll be one of the ones with a mask and a sore back.

dobee@timescolonist.com

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