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Piecing it all together – the workings of a major charity effort in Colchester

Have you ever been completing a jigsaw and been frustrated to find there is a missing piece? This would not be the case for a jigsaw bought as part of the annual Book Fair held in support of the NSPCC because each donated jigsaw is put together to check that all the right pieces are there.

 

As Elisabeth Borg, chair-woman of the book fair committee explains, “the only way to guarantee the jigsaw is complete is to make it and we have dozens of checkers who just love puzzling so we never have to worry.”

 

 Whilst the book fair itself takes place over the last weekend of October each year, the volunteers, mainly retired people who live in the Colchester area, work all year round to prepare the donations. The only exception is the months of deep winter where the warehouse is just too cold to be used.

 

Each donation is sorted and categorised with eagle-eyed checkers trained to spot any books which may be quite rare, taking care to separate these for further examination by an expert.

 

The first book fair, which started off as a one-day sale, took place in 1990 and raised £5000 for NSPCC. Now in its 28th year it has grown into a major weekend event, raising in excess of £20,000 each year from the sale of thousands of books, hundreds of jigsaws and countless CDs and DVDs donated during the year sent to a warehouse in Ardleigh where the volunteers go to work on them.

 

Elisabeth has been involved in the book fair for 10 years, her involvement starting whilst working as a General Manager for Boydens Estate Agents and so began the association which continues to this day with the estate agent collecting books on behalf of the NSPCC from its six branches across Essex and Suffolk.

 

The level of organisation is impressive, as Elisabeth explains: “When visitors arrive at the Book Fair they are blissfully unaware of the level of work required to get the items to this point. Our dedicated team work extremely hard all year round. We enjoy each other’s company, keep ourselves active and raise a huge amount of money for a fantastically worth cause. It’s a real team effort – and we enjoy the odd cup of tea and home-made cake along the way too!”

 

David Boyden, Managing Partner of Boydens echoes Elisabeth’s pride in what she does: “We have been associated with the Book Fair for many years now and play our part in accepting books in our branches. We also help clear houses we are selling which often full of books and so it is a relationship which benefits us all. The volunteers do an exceptional job and have raised such an incredible amount of money over the years, their efforts are to be truly admired and commended”

 

The book fair is a community effort with Colchester firefighters and Ghurkas helping out alongside the 75 or more local supporters who come along every year to make it the success it always is. The level of diligence is impressive and the community spirit being demonstrated is heart-warming. With book sales again on the rise, there seems to be little doubt that the fair itself has a bright future and, as long as the dedicated volunteers continue to spare their time, the funds will continue to roll in.

 

The NSPCC Book Fair takes place on 27 & 28 October at Holmwood House School, Chitts Hill between 0930 and 1600 with new items to sell on each day.

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