By Eleanor Wilson
For Berwick resident Kerry Norton, the corrugated iron shed of her bookshop at Akoonah Park holds more than just books.
It holds many years of memories, which is why she said seeing it flood after heavy rainfall on Sunday 17 July was so painful.
“It devastated me…all those beautiful books wasted,” she said.
Kerry estimates she was forced to dispose of 30 recycling bins’ worth of damaged books due to the flooding, which leaked from an overhead pipeline above the shop.
She orginally purchased the bookshop from past owner Keith six years ago, but long before then in the late ’90s, Kerry would visit the shop with her young daughter Shani, allowing her to choose a new book to read each week.
Tragically, Kerry, her husband Rick and four-year old Shani were involved in a serious car accident in November 1997.
Colliding head on with a truck, Rick and Shani were killed instantly and Kerry was airlifted to hospital and underwent six months of intense rehabilitation, relearning to walk, talk and eat.
Twenty years later, when the bookshop went up for sale, Kerry said she could not pass up the chance to purchase it, naming it Shani’s Corner Bookshop in memory of her late daughter.
While she was shattered by the book shop flooding, Kerry was determined the rebuild and reopen.
And, aware of how much the shop meant to her, the local community also rallied around Kerry to get her back on her feet.
Gayle Dye, who runs a community share space from her house, shared Kerry’s call for help as soon as she saw it come up on her Facebook feed.
“As soon as I saw Kerry’s post, I knew I could help,” she said.
“We get a lot of book donations to the community share space and I knew the community would love to get involved.
“So as soon as I put the call out to the share space [Facebook page], we were bombarded [with books].”
With the help of locals, Kerry was able to collect about 1500 books from Gayle’s Rowville house to restock the shop.
“The Berwick and Rowville community are amazing…I’ve almost got too many books,” Kerry joked.
“We had a whole storage unit worth of books donated.”
She reopened the book store about a week after the flood, thanking the community members who helped with the clean-up.
“The community has given me so much support over the years, Gayle’s help with the donations has been amazing, Dawn and Margaret from Berwick Opportunity Shop are wonderful people and the management and stallholders at Akoonah Park market really helped me mop up and get my bookshop back together,” she said.
Shani’s Corner Bookshop is in Shed 2 at Akoonah Park in Berwick.