Who’s Helping Whom? One Volunteer’s Revelation

Madison Weatherbee–The Different Dachshund by Barbara Anne Kirshner
Madison Weatherbee–The Different Dachshund by Barbara Anne Kirshner

It was a rainy Saturday, December 6, 2014 to be exact. At 11:30 a.m., I parked my car in the lot facing Main Street in Port Jefferson, unloaded a suitcase full of my recently published children’s chapter book, Madison Weatherbee-The Different Dachshund, and trudged across the street dodging puddles. My destination was Castaways, the Save-A-Pet Animal Shelter store in the middle of Chandler Square. This was the first of two-days I devoted to a book signing event with proceeds going to benefit the shelter.

Inside Castaways, a round table covered in a festive red cloth was waiting to display my books. I introduced myself to the woman at the cash register and began setting up.

Annually, on the first Saturday and Sunday of December in Port Jefferson, the town lays out the red carpet for the Dickens’ Festival. People dressed in Victorian garb circulate and special events abound, including trolley rides, a lantern-lit tour of historic homes and performances of A Christmas Carol at Theatre Three.

This year, my book signing was part of the celebration. Traditionally, Save-A-Pet offers pet pictures taken with Santa. I quickly learned that this photo op draws loyal crowds. People flock to the store with their dogs decked out in holiday finery, from reindeer antlers, to Santa stocking caps, to pretty red dresses on the female dogs and bowties on the male dogs. They all looked adorable perched on Santa’s knee.

Castaways had a steady stream of visitors during those two days. The rain did not dissuade people from getting their holiday pictures. After their photos were taken, many people stopped by my display table. I must admit, I felt awkward selling my book. Though I’m a professor of communications, I am awkward in a crowd of strangers and I felt particularly awkward announcing my book signing. But my purpose was to raise money for this little worthy shelter, so I rose to the occasion.

The woman at the cash register occasionally proclaimed, “In addition to your Santa pictures, there’s a book signing today. Meet Barbara Anne Kirshner, author of Madison Weatherbee-The Different Dachshund, and get your copy signed.” She really was a big help turning attention in my direction.

During the course of the two days, I forced myself to become more comfortable and soon I scripted a dialogue, “Signing here of the children’s chapter book, Madison Weatherbee-The Different Dachshund. Proceeds from your purchase benefits Save-A-Pet.” Most of the customers who approached my display, and checked out the book, ended up purchasing it.

I enjoyed some very rewarding moments throughout the two days. One family told me they came expressly for my book. The mother explained that she missed my reading/signing at the Book Revue in Huntington, so she was thrilled when she read the ad for this signing in The Port Times Record. How utterly amazing to have people actually search me out! Similar scenarios followed on both days.

As particularly satisfying experience was when I met an aspiring young author, Matt. He expressed his passion for putting pen to paper and creating stories. Matt confided that he is an avid reader and has a penchant for reading everything written by an author he really likes. It seems, however, that the other kids tease him about it. When I enthusiastically empathized with Matt, a glimmer of a smile crossed his face. His mom said, “You see, published authors do the same thing.”

I agreed, then added, “Keep reading authors you like and keep writing. You are definitely on the right track and some day you will sign one of your books for me.” His eyes sparkled with delight. My exchange with Matt was special, not just for him, but for me too.

In the end, I had a highly successful two-day fundraiser. I devoted my time and effort and it benefitted the orphaned animals at Save-A-Pet.

My book is still for sale through Amazon.com and at stores in Port Jefferson. I am continuing to donate a percentage of the sales to animal rescue. In fact, I was thrilled to be able to deliver an additional check to the shelter from monies raised by the sale of my book after the Dickens’ Festival event.

When this book about my beloved dachshund, Madison, was initially published, my immediate intention was to benefit animal shelters through its sales. I am so happy that my intention was realized.

I am currently adapting my book for the stage. There are several theaters on Long Island interested in producing Madison Weatherbee-The Different Dachshund as a children’s play. This will afford me an additional avenue for raising funds toward animal rescue.

In 2015, I encourage you to take action and support a worthy charity. I started my journey by wanting to do something good for the shelter, never anticipating the rewards I would reap. So in the end I must ask, “Who’s helping whom?”

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