While the history of Book ReViews extends beyond Vern Preheim's time at the store, the North Newton resident has been a fixture at the establishment for the past decade.
Preheim began volunteering with Book ReViews in 2006, coming on as manager at the time before transitioning to head of internet sales. When Preheim first started, the store was going through a transitional phase. After the original owners sold the store in 2002, Book ReViews had to a find a new location just a few short years later. With leadership among store management and the board of directors in flux at the time, Marvin Zehr was brought in to chair the latter, and it was Zehr who recruited Prehiem to help as manager.
Zehr know of Preheim's history, having managed the bookstore while at seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, and given the mission of Book ReViews — to donate all profits to charitable organizations — it was an easy sell for Preheim.
"I like books and I like to help generate resources for other voluntary work taking place through the community," Preheim said.
A year after helping get established in the new location at 707 N. Main St., Preheim also found a solution to another issue Book ReViews was facing — a lack of space. Donations continued to flow in at the store and the shelves quickly filled up. With Dillons preparing to build a new facility in town, Preheim made a request for the old location's pharmacy shelves, which were donated at no cost.
From his managerial position, Preheim helped with the stocking and logging of books in the store, while also making recommendations for where Book ReViews should direct funds in the community. That first year after the move, more than $12,000 in funds were generated for local charities. While those numbers have dipped since 2006, Preheim is glad to be able to give to a variety of worthy causes.
"There's a long list of things that we've given to," Preheim said.
Currently, as manager of online sales, Preheim tracks mainly the digital purchases for the store, normally getting about two orders a day (and 61 total for the month of May), logging the orders as well as mailing them off — something he frequently does while biking home for lunch.
Just recently, he mailed one order off to Greece, and is happy to help the store raise funds to donate. Frequent customers — like a priest from western Kansas who purchases books quarterly to give out to his congregation — aid the cause, as do some tomes that have fetched a high price on the online market, with Preheim noting the most valuable book he has sold went for $340. Making sure the books get recycled and don't go to waste is also important to Preheim.
"My concern for ecology and the environment and all that — that's also why I bike, for the exercise — (makes) this a good fit...and I enjoy it."
On top of the 22 hours a week Preheim normally spends volunteering at Book Reviews, the Bethel grad is also very involved with his church (Bethel Mennonite) and also spends two days a month helping as a clerk at Et Cetera Shop. Preheim will do the same at Book ReViews as needed, but volunteering at Et Cetera comes with the added benefit of scouting out more resources to help with the former's cause.
Book ReViews is always looking for more volunteers and Preheim was a strong advocate for anyone interested to look into the opportunity, as it is a low-pressure environment and allows for great interactions with customers. For more information on Book ReViews, visit its website at www.bookreviewsinc.org.