Love of books carry volunteer through life's ups, downs

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Valerie Weaver sits in the Walla Walla odd Fellow's library, which she helped reorganize. She also is a key volunteer for the local American Association of University Women's annual book sales. She recently received a Senior Star Award from the Aging Services of Washington for her volunteer work.

When Valerie Weaver was a young girl her parents, both teachers, made it a point to take weekly family trips to the library.

"Every Monday night we went to the public library and read books. Daddy knew where he wanted to go, Mom knew where she wanted to go and us kids went to our own sections," she said. "I can't remember when books weren't a part of our lives."

Little did she know then that many years later and half a continent away her volunteer work in Walla Walla with the American Association of University Women, which conducts and annual sale of used books to raise scholarship funds, would garner statewide recognition.

Weaver, 67, was nominated by the staff at Odd Fellows Home for Senior Star Award and was chosen by Aging Services of Washington as one of two state recipients in June.

It's not been that long since Weaver came to Walla Walla. Hurricane Katrina was a factor in that move.

She and her husband Donald Weaver, a physician who had been practicing at nursing homes for most of his career, were living in Mississippi when Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Three years later they chose to live in Walla Walla to be closer to family. They chose the Odd Fellows non-profit assisted living home, leasing an apartment in the independent section of the facility.

Soon after she moved into the community, she became involved in volunteer work.

"I started working with AAUW almost immediately after moving here," said Weaver.

Her love for books was cultivated while growing up in St. Paul, Minn., and reading was a constant companion through hard times in her life.

She said her first marriage ended when her husband died in a car crash. After the funeral Weaver headed back to Arkansas, where her mom lived. She said she grew tired of people her treating her so delicately and read to regain some peace.

She remarried but the relationship ended in divorce, and she again looked to reading for comfort. Later she reconnected with her mother's doctor, whom she married and who has been her companion since.

Now she reads for enjoyment, favoring fiction above all other genres. She said she easily reads seven to eight books a month.

After Katrina, she said, her book collection shrunk from 5,000 to around 1,400. When she came to Walla Walla it had climbed back up to more than 4,000.

While moving into her apartment, she said, she thought she would have more space but found she had 25 more boxes of books than she had room for. That's when she decided to donate them to AAUW.

"When I called AAUW to donate my books I talked to Kathy Foster, and by fall I was volunteering my time working for the book sale."

She drew on her background as a secretary - in 1990 she won a Secretary of the Year Award in Ohio - which she uses to organize and coordinate projects like the AAUW book sale.

Each year there are more than 30,000 books donated to the sale. Last year the portion of donated books sold helped the organization raise $25,000 in scholarship funds.

Kayla Kirk, activity director for the Odd Fellows, said she nominated Weaver for her work at its library.

"I hate to say everything was just thrown in there [the library] before she came, but it was," Kirk said.

Kirk said Weaver rotates library content quarterly to have new books and DVD options. She also said Weaver fields all donations and keeps the books in great shape.

"I love that I was recognized," said of her award. "But it won't change the work I do for the library and AAUW. As long as I can hobble in, I'll give it 110 percent."

Jill-Marie Gavin can be reached at jillmariegavin@wwub.com

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