Crystal Cafe raises money for local organizations

PARKERSBURG – On those occasions when people find themselves dining alone, a good book can be a good companion to while away a leisurely meal.

For the past three years, the Crystal Cafe on Market Street in downtown Parkersburg has offered used books for sale at a nominal price, with the money brought in going to local charitable organizations.

Jennifer Carpenter has been co-owner of the Crystal Cafe with her husband, J.R., for more than 10 years. She said the program began as a small book exchange with a couple of shelves near the cafe’s register, a place for people to take or leave a book or purchase one for a small amount.

When the Carpenters installed a set of benches along the two main walls of the cafe, the flat surfaces behind the seating were irresistible to her.

“I decided I had plenty of room to put more books, so then we started lining the walls with books,” Carpenter said. “I decided a lot of people would like having a book for 50 cents and I can give money to different charities. It’s an easy way to give back to the community- a small way but an easy way,” she said.

Carpenter said the book sale is based on an honor system, with a piggy bank where book buyers can leave at least 50 cents for each book they take, although they can leave more if they wish and many do because they know the proceeds go to charity.

Some people just like to donate money, whether they take any books or not, she said.

The book sale raised $442.50 in 2011, $552 in 2012 and has about $712 this year.

Some of the organizations she has donated the money to are The Arc of the Mid-Ohio Valley, the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, Family Crisis Intervention Center, the Gustke Youth Shelter, Old Man Rivers, the Boys and Girls Club of Parkersburg, the Humane Society of Parkersburg, and the Mid-Ohio Fellowship Home.

The donations to each organization are small, generally $25 to $50 for each, but Carpenter believes every little bit helps and the recipients are always appreciative.

Carpenter said she gets some books by donation and uses some of the money left by book buyers to purchase more books at area book sales held each year by churches, libraries and other organizations.

“Charity begets charity begets charity, it just kind of keeps going,” she said.

Carpenter said one of the Christmas gifts her husband is planning involves adding a shelf along each wall in the cafe, so she can get more of the books she has in storage out where people can see them.

She hopes to get the books more organized- possibly by author or genre- as opposed to the current random shelving.

Most of the book buyers are regular Crystal Cafe customers, but Carpenter said she also gets people coming in just to view the books.

On occasion, visitors staying at the Blennerhassett Hotel will stop in and be interested in getting something to read, she said.