St Monica's book sale volunteers retire after 32 years

Richmond resident Helen Garrick spent 32 years volunteering for the St Monica's Parish Book Sale, but this year she catalogued her last book.

The pre-loved book sale, which usually runs for one day in tandem with the annual St Monica's school fete, ran for eight days this year, and took Mrs Garrick and the other volunteers over a month to put together.

Helen Garrick pictured at St Monica's Church Richmond where she has been volunteering at the book sale for 32 years. Picture: Geoff Jones

Helen Garrick pictured at St Monica's Church Richmond where she has been volunteering at the book sale for 32 years. Picture: Geoff Jones

"I'm 87, there comes a time when you've got to look after number-one and say no to some of the volunteering," said Mrs Garrick, who also volunteers at East Kurrajong School of Arts, the Richmond Stamp Club, the Pastoral Care Group, and other events including morning teas for the St Monica's church.

Mrs Garrick's husband was in the air force and the couple moved to the Hawkesbury in 1974: "We liked the district so much we decided to settle here and I've been a member of St Monica's Parish ever since."

The church book sale is anything but a rummage sale. On the contrary, the volunteers spend weeks beforehand dusting and cleaning every single book with eucalyptus, pricing each item individually, and cataloguing them for the big sale.

"Ninety per cent of the books come through the St Monica's community but the wider community has become very aware of the book sale and it's really a community project, not just a parish thing," Mrs Garrick said.

"It's been such a success over the years, socially and for the community."

Books range from around $1 and some go up to $100 and more for collectibles, including a first edition Authentic Book of Space, which is undated, but looks to be from around the 1940s.

When the Gazette visited, a young man was asking the volunteers for any books by John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway, and they directed him to the 'literature' and 'poetry' sections.

"People will buy $300 worth of books that will last them all year," Mrs Garrick said.

One man, a regular, used to come by and buy-up all the war books year after year.

But it's not only books that adorn the tables: Women's Day and other old magazine titles are bundled into sets of five and lovingly tied-up with string. There are also CDs, VHS tapes and DVDs.

"When you consider all the years I've been doing it, it's become part and parcel of my life," Mrs Garrick said.

So will she visit next year?

"Next year, I'll be buying," she said, adding that her particular favourites are historical novels from the 1500s onwards, including books about Cornish mines and the lifestyles of people from different eras. She also loves Australian authors.

"New Australian authors have been popular this year, as people are becoming more interested in their own country," Mrs Garrick said.

"Second World War books are also popular this year, as well as people wanting to know about different countries and foreign languages."

For some customers, it's not just a case of buying a book - coming to the book sale is more about their lifestyle, such as the art teacher who comes every year to buy art books for her students.

Do the volunteers ever find anything interesting in the books?

"We once found a concert ticket stub with all the autographs of the band members - it was the Beach Boys," Mrs Garrick recalled.

Inscribed books are common, such as the copy of The Pacific Book of Australiana with a handwritten message on the inside cover that read: 'Dear Mum, Learn this book, then you can become the oldest quiz kid in Australia. Merry Christmas 1970, from Bruce and Shirley.'

Volunteers Patricia and Frank Crew also hung up their hats this year, after volunteering alongside Mrs Garrick for the past 32 years.

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