I need to tell you something. Then I'm writing a check.

Not a big check, but it's something I spend every year.

In fact, I have looked forward to dishing out these few dollars every summer.

Because ... in return I got a boxful of books.

I'm talking about the books I rescued from those tables in the park in downtown Ottawa.

The summer book sale is part of the town's Riverfest and has been going on for years thanks to the Ottawa chapter of the American Association of University Women.

They accept book donations throughout the year that are stored and delivered to the park for the two-day sale.

Volunteers help lug and sort and stack the books for the ladies of the AAUW after they are delivered with the generous help of Stevenson Transfer.

This annual sale is important to the AAUW because it allows them to provide college scholarships to young, local women.

The picnic tables in the park are jammed with used books, magazines and other reading materials.

The buffet is a treasure hunt for book lovers of all ages.

It's usually hot. I'm dripping hot. And my box gets heavy before I am done. (Thank you to Illinois Valley Building Trades Council for donating those tents — much needed shade.)

But what a rush. A good definition of "labor of love."

My mission starts simple enough. Just go see what's there. But I know better.

I walk away with a box full of new friends. (And now and then some I forgot I had.)

And in the park I am surrounded by others, many others, doing the same thing.

It's the best deal in town. On many levels. And the community loves it.

Once a year. Every year. ... Well, except this year.

Sadly, the book sale in the park was cancelled thanks to the relentless COVID-19 pandemic.

But here's my plan. I hope you join me.

My box of books usually costs less than $20 but I pull out a Jackson and leave the change.

It's not a lot, but this book bonanza is not just about me getting books on the cheap.

Those college scholarships are important. As is the work of the AAUW.

The American Association of University Women boasts that it is the oldest women’s organization in the United States, founded in 1881.

They promote equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.

The sale is cancelled but the Ottawa chapter is still collecting book donations. (To donate, call Olivia at 630-887-6648 or Nympha at 815-249-6411.)

But the downside is they are losing revenue from this year's sale.

The money raised provides $1,000 scholarships to three or four young women. This year's sale would have gone to scholarships next year.

One of the chapter members told me, "Maybe we could have a no book sale book sale."

She was joking, but ... why not?

These ladies have been doing the book sale for about 40 years.

And I've enjoyed about 35 of them. I benefited from every trip to the park.

Maybe now is the perfect time to simply say thank you. (And make sure those scholarships happen.)

Give them what you would usually spend. It might not be much, but it adds up.

They are so happy with whatever they get.

So I will be putting a check in the mail for $20. (Well, maybe a bit more.)

Mailing to: AAUW, c/o Nympha White, 660 Myrtle Ave., Grand Ridge, Ill., 61325.

Let's call it a financial hug.

And ... a down payment on future book sales ... and boxes and boxes full of discovery.

LONNY CAIN, of Ottawa, is the retired managing editor of The Times. Email to lonnyjcain@gmail.com or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.

For more local news, visit The Times at https://www.mywebtimes.com.

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