Beverly’s Hidden Centerpiece Helps Many

By: David Simmons

SALEM, Mass., Oct. 27, 2016 — Every city or town aspires to have a good community where the people and businesses adhere to the golden rule of treating others how they themselves would want to be treated. Beverly is a community-based city and Beverly Bootstraps seems to be right in the middle of it.

Located at 198 Rantoul Street, Bootstraps had humble beginnings where it acted as a food pantry in the basement of the First Baptist Church back in 1992. It has grown to be a leading social service agency on the North Shore by donors and volunteers from the community according to the Director of Donor Relations Heather Johnston.

“The success of Bootstraps is hugely driven by the community,” she said.

Volunteers at Beverly Bootstraps go through all of the donations on October 27, 2016, in Beverly, Mass., sorting and preparing goods to be sold. Photo: David Simmons.

The reason for the success is because the organization itself is actively involved in the community, according to Johnston The downtown businesses and shops help with more than money, time skills.

“They [also] will help collect backpacks and school supplies and gifts for kids,” she noted.

Anthony Clark, a Marine who fought in Vietnam, has been living in veteran housing for almost two and a half years in Beverly and has visited Beverly Bootstraps. The 6’3”, 72-year-old Louisiana native approves of the organization.

“I think they’re doing a wonderful thing there,” Clark said. “I’ve frequented the store and bought some clothes and art there and encourage some of the other guys to go. I know a few use the food pantry, too.”

The thrift store is well-known for the large amount of items it takes in because it is largely run by volunteers. It is a pretty significant and vital part of the success of this organization, accounting for about 30 percent of the revenue, according to Johnston. Not only is this a large enough percentage to sustain the thrift store, it also helps with obtaining food for the food pantry.

The store is open Monday through Saturday with varying hours for each day and usually has at least three volunteers in the receiving area where there is a separate door where you can drop off donations. They sift through all the donations, appraise them and then get them ready to be out on the floor to sell.

Beverly Bootstraps’ slogan “Embrace, Educate and Empower” on the wall behind a children’s play area at the Beverly, Mass., organization’s Food Pantry. Photo: David Simmons.

Fundraising never seems to stop. According to Johnston, it brings in 70 percent of the revenue. Surprisingly enough, local and national grants only account for a miniscule portion of the income. Most comes from individual donors and businesses in Beverly and Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Beverly Bootstraps now offers food assistance, adult education, youth and family services and client support to Beverly and Manchester-by-the-Sea.

“Beverly Bootstraps helped more than 4,100 people last fiscal year, which is more than 10 percent of the population of Beverly,” Johnston added.

The food assistance involves the food pantry, mobile market and summer lunch program which all help those in need — there is no age limit — along with educating the individuals about proper nourishment.

“We have about 100 people per month utilizing the food pantry,” Johnston said.

Their food comes from inKind, the Greater Boston Food Bank, which buys in bulk and then resells to smaller food pantries for cheaper than they could get on their own, food drives and from local restaurants that have leftovers that would normally be thrown out. The food taken from the restaurants falls under strict guidelines to assure that there is nothing being taken that is overdue or had gone bad.

Adult education is geared towards college and career readiness along with those who are in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program. Food For Thought the Beverly Bootstraps newsletter stated that 166 ESOL students were enrolled in the program last fiscal year which was a 48 percent increase.

The youth and family services help provide gifts during the holidays, back-to-school supplies and summer camp opportunities. According to Food for Thought, 22 elementary and middle school student were enrolled in after school programs, 644 backpacks were distributed, 677 children received gifts through the Adopt-a-Family program and 86 children were placed in summer camps.