From The Calgary Herald
Olsen: These Books come from the Heart
In 2004 Louise Nesterenko had an idea about the size of a small bookshelf. She had wandered around garage sales and collected a bunch of used books. It was just enough to fill one small book case.
Today that little idea has blossomed into rows and rows of shelves taking up 1,800 square feet of office space stacked with over 60,000 used books, and it has become precisely what Nesterenko hoped it would be: a place to share a love of reading but, more importantly, to help others.
Nesterenko is founder of Books Between Friends, an organization that takes in donations of used books and allows charitable groups to do the selling and reap the rewards. And the rewards can be significant.
By Year 4 we were already giving $40,000 to different charities, says the 62-year-old Calgarian.
One of the main recipients of the funds is Between Friends, an organization that offers social activities for people with disabilities. Some of those helped by the agency do volunteer work at the bookstore, and working alongside them inspires Nesterenko to keep going.
It gives me encouragement to continue the program and it makes me feel really good. Just look at what they can do, she says.
The inspiration to make a difference comes from a personal place for Nesterenko. She watched her mother live with a physical disability and then die at a young age.
It had a profound impact. Between her disability and raising her children as a single parent, Nesterenko's mother didn't have a chance to socialize much.
My mother, she was very lonely all the time. In my heart I always felt that if my mom had a place to go when she was young, she wouldn't have died alone...she would have had friends.
Seeing the volunteers from Between Friends thrive while working in the used bookstore she created, and then being able to donate the funds raised to the good work of that organization, is a wonderful gift.
You can't buy that and you can't give that to them. They have to understand it comes from themselves...they have earned it themselves.
That generous spirit extends to Nesterenko's husband and business partner. Working together, running ACC Cables, (Alberta Computer Cable Inc.) as well as several other businesses, he encouraged Nesterenko to follow her heart when it came to giving back.
It really started because my husband Bob said: "I don't want you at work all the time. Find a hobby!"
Now that hobby covers the back half of their business operation, with customers and volunteers coming and going through ACC's doors and straight into Nesterenko's heart.
You have to believe that what you're doing is going to make a difference.
Nesterenko has faced some physical challenges of her own. She broke her leg twice, was forced into a wheelchair and had to learn to walk again, all while keeping her business and her bookstore running.
So, with her undaunted spirit, running is what Nesterenko chose to do. She joined a local track club and got back on her feet.
I'm very driven and very active...I don't like to sit still.
And the lives she has affected with her one small idea and enormous determination, and the stories of inspiration that come from that, could fill rows and rows of bookshelves.
Linda Olsen anchors the Early News and the News Hour on Global Calgary. She also hosts and produces the Woman of Vision Series. If you'd like to nominate a Woman of Vision, go to www.globaltvcalgary.com for more information.
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