PALMER — Valley Community Recycling Solutions recently opened up a new book store within the main office in conjunction with their Bright Lights Book Project, an effort to get more books in hands of those who need it most, promote reading interest, and save mound after mound of books from the shredder.

VCRS staff and volunteers invite the public to celebrate the grand opening of the Bright Lights Book Store, Feb. 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, selling used books at $2 a bag and $5 for a box.

The assorted collection is predominately downstairs contained within library sized bookshelves, with numerous totes and boxes to sort through in preparation for the grand opening.

Staff and volunteers recently began sorting and distributing hundreds of books that were in the waste stream and destined to be shredded.

Alys Culhane has volunteered with the book project since its inception. She said that she was the one who came up with the idea in October of 2019. She said that she was saving some books from the shredder and giving them to friends when it struck her.

“I realized there were a lot of good books and I didn’t want them to be shredded,” Culhane said.

Culhane figured there had to be a way to reduce the number of books processed at their site. As someone with an extensive literacy and language background, she couldn’t stand to see so many books meet untimely fates when so many hands across the community would love to hold them.

“My goal is to get books in the hands of people who need them,” Culhane said.

The archive of tomes comes from a variety of places like schools and libraries, according to VCRS Executive Director Steven Brown.

“We’re finding all sorts of jewels in the process,” Brown said with a laugh.

They cycle through books at the facility, sell them at the store and drop them off at places that need a new cycle of books, including hospitals, businesses, and daycare centers.

“It’s been very dynamic,”Brown said.

Culhane said that VCRS wants to grow the program to the point of dropping books off in remote areas and with the amount of support this early in the game, she’s sure they’ll get there.

“We want to get books out in the bush. We want this to be statewide. It’s coming,” Culhane said.

The multifaceted endeavor has already saved a ton of books from the waste stream, according to Culhane.

She said that several staff members and volunteers carried up 500 boxes of used books during Winter Solstice in December of 2019, hence the “Bright Lights” in Bright Light Book Project. She said that within a month, all but two boxes were sold.

“People just keep coming for them,” Culhane said.

VCRS works with local students with special needs who help them sort through the books and other tasks around the used bookstore.

“It’s teaching them to interact socially in a welcoming, safe environment,” Brown said.

VCRS is always looking for volunteers, particularly for the Bright Light Book Project.

“What we need badly is for people to make phone calls for distribution,” Culhane said.

Books are sold at 25 cents per paperback, 50 cents for a hardback, $2 for a bag, and $5 for a box.

For bookstore hours and more information about this event or upcoming events at the center, call VCRS at 907-745-5544 or visit valleyrecycling.org.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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