#NiceWork! When you enter Bennett’s Books in Deep River, CT, you’ll find nothing but cozy. Between narrow corridors and massive columns of books, you’ll meet the warm and welcoming owner, Colin Bennett. These days, it can be difficult to find independent bookstores like Bennett’s. With e-readers and large chains, it’s almost impossible for small stores to compete. Luckily, Bennett found a creative (and compassionate) solution— he involved the community. He operates the store as a CSB, a Community Supported Bookstore.

“Our…program is the only such program in Connecticut, in fact, as far as we know, it is one of only three in the entire country,” said Bennett in an interview with Zip06.com. Most of the books in the store are donated from community members, and Bennett works tirelessly to return the favor.  In fact, this entire bookstore is centered around one thing: the community. Bennett is on a mission to promote affordable literacy. Everything in the store sells for $10 or less (though most books are $5 or under). He also has a laundry list of promotions, from a free book on your birthday to encouraging the exchange of a canned good for 10% off your purchase. All donations go to Shoreline Soup Kitchen.

Bennett is involved in a number of community-focused causes. Not only does he donate much of his proceeds, he also encourages customers to donate whatever they can. He’ll encourage different items during different times of the year, from hats and gloves to boxtops. One of his Facebook posts even calls on community members to collect acorns for the town’s squirrels because of limited access to natural resources.

When you meet Bennett, you’ll realize that he is not only fascinating, he’s fascinated. He tries to read a book a week. In fact, the idea for this bookstore started back in 2000, when Bennett started selling books from the trunk of his car to finance a road trip across the country. He estimates 40% of all stock comes from his own personal collection.

Bennett is also passionate about the environment, peace, and love. His bookstore might be most well-known in Deep River for their infamous Vigils for Kindness. Every Friday from 5:00-6:00, dedicated community members gather with peace and love signs in the town center. They do it to remind everyone of the importance of kindness, compassion, and community. Brandy Richards, Killingworth resident, explains that there is something magical about the smiles you see in the cars driving by during the Vigil. Bennett has been involved in a number of environmental organizations, including his role as the founder and director of  the Great Land Conservation Trust. He also hosts a “green” drinks get-together, where interested people come to discuss environmental issues while enjoying eco-friendly refreshments.

Moving forward, Bennett says he’d like to support more member-voted initiatives. “I would like to get to a point where profits over what are needed to keep the bookstore running can be given to social justice organizations or to community organizations—I would love to sponsor a little league team,” (Zip06.com).

In the Deep River area? Come stop by the store! Inspired by this story? Look around you. What can you do to get more involved in your community? Kindness is connection and community.

Photo Credits: Thanks to Brandy Richards (Envision Kindness), Bennett Books, and Catherine Avalone (New Haven Register)

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