VALPARAISO | For nearly 30 years, a group of volunteers with the Porter County Public Library System has been able to accomplish big things.
The Friends of the Porter County Public Library was established in 1985 and has raised more than $750,000 to date for the library, which has branches in Hebron, Kouts, Portage, South Haven and Valparaiso.
“It's a group of workers who enjoy the library and working together. It's a very positive organization,” said Lois Thurner, president of the Friends board.
Many of the 570 members actively volunteer to assist with fundraising efforts that include the used book sales held at every library and the used book sale rooms at the Portage and Valparaiso branches.
Last year the group raised more than $50,000, of which $38,000 will go back to the libraries to fund equipment, materials, youth and adult reading programs, staff scholarships and other wish-list items that each branch submits, Thurner said.
Friends member Donna Anduskey co-founded the used book sale rooms in Valparaiso and Portage along with Susan Lahaie in 1996.
The rooms' shelves are filled with donations of hardbacks, paperbacks, magazines, children's books, audio books, music CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes and cassettes. Prices range from 10 cents to $3.
“These can make neat gifts,” Anduskey said. “Many are in mint shape and some haven't ever been used.”
Books about mysteries, science fiction and religion are among the most popular sellers, said Friends member Ilene Chelf, who volunteers in the Valparaiso book sale room.
“It's pleasant and you meet a lot of nice people,” Chelf said.
In addition to helping with book sales and the book rooms, friends members assist at programs, prepare mailings and care for library materials. Annual membership fees range from $2 for students to $10 for families. Business memberships are $25.
The group's annual meeting in October often features an educational program, including presentations on Ernie Pyle and Abraham Lincoln. A volunteer appreciation luncheon takes place in May.
By becoming a Friend, many people end up building friendships and connections of their own with other book lovers.
“It's about meeting people and helping the organization, which helps everyone in your town,” Thurner said.
For more information or to join the Friends, call (219) 462-0524, ext. 7.