The Park Hill Community Bookstore celebrates its 42-year history

In the basement of the Park Hill Community Bookstore, the volunteers who work there have written the opening lines of their favorite books on a yellow door. It's a daily reminder of the importance of literature -- and the reason they decided to donate their time and energy in the first place to the Rocky Mountain region's only nonprofit volunteer-operated book store.

On Friday, June 21, the store, which is heading into its 43rd year in the community, will continue providing for its future by holding a fundraiser featuring John Fielder, the wildlife activist and photographer. Fundraisers like these play a big role in the conservation of the bookstore. In addition to member donations, large fundraisers are a key factor in gaining money to help operate the store.

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So are memberships, which require a yearly donation in exchange for ten free used books. Members can also bring in their used books and exchange them for store credit.

In January, the bookstore, at 4620 East 23rd Avenue, reached the 500-member milestone, something that longtime volunteer Jack Farrar called "a significant achievement given the precarious state of independent bookstores across the country." And the members aren't just neighbors. Some are simply supports of bookstores and live as far away as Alabama or New Jersey.

Farrar and his wife, Pam, have been at the store for over two decades, and he points out the organization "donates many of our books to schools, churches and charities for people to experience reading and what it has to offer." Jack says that it is remarkable that they have made it so long, considering the risky business they are in.

Located inside an old three-story brick building that used to be a bakery, the store lays claim to a vast collection of more than 30,000 volumes in just about every category. Browsing brings about a homey feel as the ceilings are low; as you walk up and down the red painted stairs you can hear the creaking from years of wear. From the floor to the roof are towering bookshelves only separated by narrow pathways.

"There's still a huge population that doesn't like e-books. Here we give a three dimensional experience, the feel the look and even the smell of books," says Pam Farrar.

"This bookstore offers intimate connections and interactions with the community," adds Levi Darrell, a volunteer who works behind the front desk. "People share their ideas and literacy, interacting with their environment in a way no other business can."

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Noah Reynolds