A social enterprise that gives out free books to children is receiving support from the public after having its stock decimated by flood water.
Thousands of pounds have been raised for Re-Read, which sells books online to raise money to give away books to children and pay its 10 staff members – and is based on the banks of the River Don in Doncaster.
But the floods which have struck South Yorkshire have all but wiped out the company’s stock of children’s books, destroying around 10,000 of the 12,000 or so texts which were to be given away, and damaged an estimated 100,000 books that were earmarked for sale.
“I’m a bit emotional at the moment,” chief executive Jim McLaughlin told the PA news agency.
“It’s been awful. It was underwater all weekend and I was catastrophising in my head, but when I came in and saw what damage had been caused, it was just exactly how I’d imagined it.”
Last year, work by Re-Read gave away more than 35,000 books to schools, faith groups and children’s centres to ensure youngsters who otherwise might not have access to reading materials have good quality books.
In the seven years the enterprise has been running, Mr McLaughlin estimates it has given away more than 200,000 books.
Now the operation has been halted while Mr McLaughlin and his staff get a handle on what remains of the stock.
“I’ve had to take all the inventory offline so we can’t sell books any more,” the 57-year-old said.
“I don’t know what’s wet and what’s not so until I can establish that, and that’s going to take a couple of weeks, I’m not going to be able to do anything.”
In the meantime, a gofundme page has been set up to raise money to support the enterprise, boosted by publicity from authors including Anthony Horowitz and Joanne Harris, who is a Re-Read patron, as well as Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband and comedians Nish Kumar and Robin Ince.
The campaign had more than £9,000 by Tuesday afternoon, money which in part will go towards helping Re-Read put on its annual Christmas book giveaway.
“When you do a Christmas book giveaway, you seriously feel like Santa Claus because the kids are just so appreciative,” Mr McLaughlin said.
“It’s quite incredible.”
Mr McLaughlin said he will also work hard to try to ensure his staff are not affected.
“I’m just desperate to try to keep people in employment over Christmas,” he said.
“They’re nearly all part-time and nearly all do full-time hours – it’s a cause, this is not a job, this is a vocation. They believe in it, they see the results.”
But whatever happens, he is confident that, with the help of the community, Re-Read will continue to operate.
“We are going to carry on,” he said.
“It’s bloody-mindedness. The community is going to support us, we are going to carry on.
“There’s no way we’re not. This is such a big thing and it’s so important to so many people.”