BILLINGS — There are an estimated 20,000 books in the main room of the Central Christian Church's facility right now, and that's barely a quarter of what they hope to get rid of over the next two weeks.
The church's biannual book sale is back for the first time in 18 months, making this one possibly the biggest of them all. At least, that’s organizer Ron May’s hope.
“We’d hate to throw this party and have nobody show up," May joked. "So we are delighted when we get the response we do get.”
Fifteen years ago, a couple hundred people showed up to the first sale May organized after being tasked with coming up with three church fundraising ideas.
“I offered a fireworks stand, and they thought that was too much work. Then I said, ‘What about a food cart at the Fair?’ No, that was way too much work," May said of his first two choices. "So then I offered, ‘How about a book sale?’ Fine, that sounds good. Go with it.”
The sale has grown every year since and has completely enveloped the grounds.
“This just kind of takes over the building. We’ve got them in rooms here, in Sunday school rooms, down the hallway," said church pastor Doug Garner. "I have been able to keep my office safe so far.”
The next two weeks will be responsible for one-third of the church’s budget, even more impressive when you consider they’ve never raised prices: 50 cents for a paperback, $1 per hardcover. It’s a year-round job for the many volunteers.
“Just about everybody in the church gets to work on it," Garner said.
But nobody cares as much as May, a true perfectionist even at age 87.
“It is inevitable that you find something that should be somewhere else," May said as he walked the aisles turning upside down books around and replacing those he deems unworthy of first-day presentation.
When asked if he allows others to help him, he hesitated.
"Ummm, sure," as Garner uttered a loud "No!" from afar.
"Are you trying to say I'm a control freak?" May responded, knowing all too well the answer.
In the end, the church can't thank May enough for all he's done, and knows he's just a lover of books trying to share his passion with the world.
“Last year, I got somebody that called from Iowa," Garner said, "and they were coming to the northwest on vacation, and they wanted to know when the book sale was so they could time their trip through Billings to stop at the book sale. From Iowa!”
“We have been told the book is dead, but we certainly haven’t seen any evidence of that,” May said with a smile.
Every single book, CD, game, vinyl record, etc. at the sale is donated by the community. It will be open for the next two weeks, Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day at 1221 16th Street West.