by Paula Gail Benson
I have a friend named Fran Bush who, with carefully selected cohorts, accomplishes the impossible almost every day. No exaggeration.
|Don Bush, second from the right, photo by Cindy Kubovic for the Aiken Standard|
She and her husband Don, both lovely, genial, retired booksellers, spend their time making the world better for people and animals. They are well known in their home town of Aiken, South Carolina, for their community contributions. Any abandoned or rescued cat or dog can find a refuge at the Bush abode, and likely may become a permanent resident. (Currently, they support six dogs and thirty cats.) In 2017, the Bushs were honored by the local branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) for their leadership.
Fran’s connection with the local AAUW began when, while still working at her bookstore, she donated and collected used books for the annual AAUW Books ‘n Things Fair. She also helped to set up lunch programs with authors (including her dear friends Charles and Caroline Todd--take a look, she’s mentioned in their Bess Crawford acknowledgments) to raise funds for education efforts.
|Fran Bush and Amy Conkelton, photo by Dede Biles for the Aiken Standard|
This year, Fran and her good friend Amy Conkelton were named co-chairs for the AAUW Books ‘n Things Fair.
Amy is another force for good in the Aiken community. She has been an English teacher and school librarian at Aiken High School as well as caretaker for her mother.
Recently, Amy was sidelined by a severe automobile accident that required five surgeries for shattered bones in both her feet and ankles. Nevertheless, she persevered with planning for the Fair, even while in rehab.
Fran speaks humbly about their involvement in the event. “This is not something Amy or I can take credit for. The Fair is organized by a group of people who know what they are doing and have done it for thirty-five years. The biggest thing I did was to stay out of their way or do something when they needed it done.”
|Front Room of AAUW Books 'n Things Fair, photo by Cindy Kubovic for the Aiken Standard|
What the group did was collect 80,000 books to sell. In addition, they had a section of “Attic Treasures” that featured clothing, jewelry, household items, Christmas decorations, and other merchandise, including special books (those extremely new or very old that were specially priced). They also operated a food court, where shoppers could take a break and order from a delicious menu.
For the first two days of the event, each hard cover book was priced at two dollars, trade paperbacks were one dollar, and mass-market paperbacks were fifty cents. On the last day, everything was reduced to half price.
On the first day, Don Bush opened the doors early to let shoppers come in out of the rain. They had a record crowd.
|Back Room of the AAUW Books 'n Things Fair, photo by Cindy Kubovic for the Aiken Standard|
During the three days, approximately 70,000 books were sold. The 10,000 left went to different charities, including the local free libraries, another city’s library, another library’s book sale, a church library, and a church’s book sale (to raise money for a summer school Bible program).
This year’s Books ‘n Things raised $61,249, all of which the AAUW will provide to education projects and for scholarships.
So, you see, it’s not just the power of words, but the power of used books that, even in this age of technology, may make a significant difference.
Thanks, Fran, Don, and Amy. I look forward to seeing you at next year’s event.
Have you experienced the power of used books?