Blackstone sale benefits fire stations

Blackstone Audio will hold a fundraiser Sept. 11 in an effort to give back to the community, specifically to the fire departments that saved their building from destruction during the 2009 Siskiyou Fire.

Blackstone is hosting its second annual fundraising sale where all the audiobooks are $5 and people get a chance to record themselves in the professional recording studio for $25 for 15 minutes. Nearly 300 different titles and thousands of copies of audiobooks will be available at the sale price on Saturday. Other activities are scheduled at Blackstone throughout the day featuring many local sponsors and vendors. The sale will be held at the Blackstone warehouse at 31 Mistletoe Road off Siskiyou Boulevard from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Last year's sale was held in July, on the hottest day of the year and the $20,000 raised was donated to the Jackson County Library Foundation. This year Blackstone is raising money for Ashland Fire & Rescue and Fire District No. 5 to help purchase new equipment.

Rick Bleiweiss is head of business development at Blackstone and part of the team organizing the event.

"All the money from the activities goes to fire," Bleiweiss said.

Half of the money generated from audiobook sales will also be donated to the fire stations. The other half will cover royalties.

"It's not a commercial venture," Bleiweiss said.

Bleiweiss pointed out that fire is one of the region's biggest threats.

"With the Oak Knoll fires, fire is on everyone's mind," he said.

Blackstone was evacuated last September during the Siskiyou Fire near Tolman Creek Road. According to Bleiweiss the flames came very close to the building.

"There might not have been a Blackstone," he said.

Last year more than 1,400 people attended the fundraising event, but this year with more promotion Bleiweiss is hoping for 2,000 people.

"It's really been very pleasing that people have rallied behind it," he said.

Shop'N Kart is supplying 1,000 reusable shopping bags for sale attendees and five local bands, including The Karen Lovely Band, will perform throughout the day.

Roscoe's BBQ, a local restaurant, will have a food stand and will also donate a portion of money raised.

A dunk tank and face painting will be available as well as readings of children's books by Blackstone staff. Also several Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors who have narrated for Blackstone will be available to talk to and do readings.

Because Blackstone has limited parking space the field behind Shop'N Kart and the Bellview Elementary School parking lot will be used for the event with shuttle service provided.

Nearly 70 volunteers are involved in running the sale, most are employees at Blackstone Audio and some are community members.

Owner and founder Craig Black said that even through the recent recession Blackstone's sales are up by 6 percent this year.

"We are successful and doing well, we want to give back," Black said.

"I feel that we live in one of the most special places, it's populated by really special people."

Blackstone has recently added a new feature in the form of iPhone and iPad applications, helping the company maintain growth. They are also the recipient of several Audie Awards and two Grammys this year.

"(The Audie) is the Oscar Award for the audiobook industry," Bleiweiss said.

Ashland Fire and Rescue Chief John Karns said that he will be at the sale.

"We are really honored that they want to help us out," Karns said.

He explained that AFR is hoping to purchase a thermal imaging camera with the proceeds from the sale. The TIC is a $9,000 piece of equipment that allows a fewer number of people to do more tasks on the front lines of a fire, Karns said.

"It should be fun. They are trying to get me in the dunk tank," he said.

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