(Originally posted at MuseHack.)
Barnabas Health in New Jersey, is known for it’s various services, including home care and hospices. They’re also known for a comic book sale held twice a year to raise money for their services. Happing since 2009, Spiro Ballas, the man behind it, thought he’d fill me in on what he’s doing.
1) Spiro, tell us how you came up with your comic book auction?
The Superheroes For Hospice Charity Comic Book Sale was started for a couple of reasons:
A.) I like to do a volunteer activity since I’m asking others to volunteer; I’m one of the Volunteer Coordinators for Barnabas Health hospice and Palliative Care Center.
B.) My pervious project for the agency–original, alternative-ish music Holiday CD compilations— reached an end…Hint: people are not buying CDs now.
C.) I was asked to “Get rid of the boxes” when my sister sold our house of origin. I knew I want some, but I was ready to depart with a lot of them.
D.) I heard the commercial “1-800-Kars-4-Kids” and thought “if people donate cars, why not comic books?”
2) What was the response of the comic community – and how far does involvement spread?
Some promoters have allowed us visibility at their events, and some stores have donated and even more have distributed our fliers. There are others who feel threatened and say “no” to supporting us, and I know there are some who say “Sure, we’ll set those out” and when I leave, they are throwing the fliers in the garbage. Everyone is different, but on a whole the scene has been very positive to the project. I’m happy for whatever people can do; I know some are struggling. I’m not demanding and I try to reciprocate and promote their activity at my events and via email/Facebook announcements. I believe if we are all encouraging people in this hobby, that has to be good for the overall health of the NJ comic book community.
3) This seems to have grown over time. How has it grown and evolved?
Without charging admissions it is hard to talk exact numbers of attendants, but each show has outdone the other in terms of sales. Word-of-mouth, social medial activity and handing out a lot of fliers has helped us find an audience. The project was started in 2009. Because many keep returning to support the project, I believe the project I must be doing something right. Thanks to the growing success of the project, the agency has supported the last event and this upcoming sale with Facebook advertising, too. The growth is seen in the breadth of the selection we are able to offer, in comic books, and in comic book creator/sketch artist guests presenting at each new event. I had dabbled in trying to offer a lecture series, to encourage interest in various aspects of comic books, but I’ve learned that most people attend to get comic books, so I have stopped the lecture series.
4) Have you teamed up with any comic stores or bookstores?
I can’t say that I’ve ‘teamed-up’ with any one particular store, but I have benefited from the kindness of many store owners and managers, in terms of them distributing fliers about SFH. Some shops have referred donors to us, because they don’t have a back-issue section. One store that went out of business, Commuter Comics (South Orange, NJ) did donate their comic book stock to us when they closed their door and that was a nice spark for us, in terms of our growth.
5) Have you teamed up with any comic conventions, cosplayers, or other comic charities like Heroes Alliance?
Again, we have not done anything official with another group to describe it as a ‘Team-Up’, but I would say all of the area conventions have, at one time, or another, shown Superheroes For Hospice some love. Some just allowed us to hand out fliers, and others provided us table space so we can augment our sales with additional opportunities to raise funds. We had the East Coast Cosplayers at one or two events. This upcoming show (Nov. 8th, 2014) we’ll have members of the Mandalorian Mercs on hand in costume. We are willing to be an outlet for organized cosplayer groups, but we have yet to host cosplay contests or encourage attendants to come in costume…SFH has been about getting comic books (& related items) and meeting area comic book creators and sketch artists. I never thought to connect with another charity, and, I have never been approached by another charity asking to appear at my events…But I’m open to almost anything that is related to the event, that will positively impact the success of the event.
6) How do you promote this?
Word-of-mouth. Fliers at area cons, stores and street fairs. Facebook and email distribution lists. And stories like the one you are writing.
7) How can people help you out?
a.) Attend out events, usually the last Saturday in May and the Saturday of NJ Teacher’s Convention weekend.
b.) Donate comic books and related items (contact: 973-322-4866 * [email protected] ).
c.) Volunteer to sort donations and to run the events (contact me at the above).
d.) Spread the word of our need for donations and our need for comic book fans to attend our events (Tell them to “like our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/fansofsfh .”
8) If anyone wanted to do their own version, what would you recommend?
Make sure you have a lot of time, space and help…And please don’t do it the greater NJ area.
9) For anyone who wants to take geeky interests and do good, any other advice?
I put up with the time demands and the pile of boxes in my way because of my fondness of comic books and my awe and respect of the cause it is benefiting. If someone can link their passions into one endeavor like I have, they’ll be as satisfied as I am.
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.