Saturday, September 19, 2020

Local News

Community Bookstore Going Non-Profit

Bennett’s Books founder and owner Colin Bennett has come up with a new concept for his Deep River business: He intends to turn Bennett’s Books into an official non-profit, which he said will allow his non-traditional, used books store to deepen its social commitment to the community.

“Bennett’s Books is not now, nor was it ever supposed to be, a profit-driven, capitalist endeavor,” said Bennett, who has worked in education, non-profits, and the United States Coast Guard. “It has always been meant to be a bookstore, as well as a safe and welcoming place for all people, a business that helps the community in many different ways.”

He added, “Having spent so much time in the nonprofit world, I saw with great clarity the biggest challenge that almost all nonprofits face is lack of funding. So many organizations are out there attempting to do good work, with limited funding available. Organizations and groups end up competing against each other for scarce resources. Having dealt with that firsthand, I came up with the idea of Bennett’s Books—a business that would directly serve its own community.”

The plan is for the used book store to operate as a traditional business, but a business where all profits would go back to the community. The inspiration for this concept came largely from the Newman’s Own model of a non-profit for charity.

Since its inception 4 ½ years ago, Bennett’s Books has operated as a small, used bookstore offering a community-supported bookstore program or (CSB), which Bennett likens to community-supported agriculture programs through which people buy membership to access a farm’s offerings. Bennett’s CSB members receive benefits throughout the year based on membership.

Another concept at work at this local bookstore is the Little Free Pantry, which Bennett came up with when he saw a need for more resources in the area for people in need at all hours, not just when the food pantries are open. The purple, re-purposed food cupboard is open 24/7 and located just outside the bookstore’s front door. Bennett sees to it that it is always stocked with the essentials, as well as some emergency seasonal needs, such as hats, gloves, and scarfs in the winter time.

“My thought was if someone was coming home from a job, maybe their second job, and they realized they had no money to go the grocery store and all the food pantries in the area were closed, they could come to the Little Free Pantry and get what they needed to get by,” Bennett said.

In addition, Bennet explained that during the summer months some of the area youth chose to hang out in and around his store and they would often ask if he had any snacks. Some explained that they didn’t have much food at home, so Bennett thought that if the Little Free Pantry had snacks available, the kids would also be able to take what they needed without feeling embarrassed.

“I want this to be something that works for everyone in the community,” said Bennett. “People are usually great about just dropping stuff off. It has worked out really well so far.”

Bennett feels that now is the right time to evolve into an official non-profit, which would offer tax deductions to those who donate as well as offer a chance for the store to supply the community with the possibility of needed grants and scholarships. He wants to follow the model that all the money, beyond operating costs, including providing a living wage to employees, will go back into the community.

Bennett’s hope is that after the initial startup process, instead of competing for grants and other scarce nonprofit monies, Bennett’s Books will become a positive source of funds.

Bennett hopes to complete all the necessary paperwork to become a non-profit by this June.

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