Beverly Bootstraps reaches out to help those in need.
“Embrace. educate. empower.” Those three words appear on all Beverly Bootstraps communications and are prominently displayed at the nonprofit organization’s thrift shop at 198 Rantoul Street.
Executive director Sue Gabriel explains the significance of the slogan. “This is what we do with everyone. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a client, a volunteer, a donor, or even a staff member. The very first thing we do is embrace. You should feel welcomed and you should feel like this is a place you want to be.”
“Then we educate. You need to know how we can help you or who else can if we can’t help you directly,” she says.
“And we want to empower…donors to write that check or give us food or bring us clothing and goods. Certainly, we want our clients to feel empowered to help themselves,” says Gabriel.
The humble origins of Beverly Bootstraps can be traced back to 1992 at the First Baptist Church on Cabot Street. “As a result of a community need, people came off the streets and asked the church for food, and they obliged. Soon a food pantry [was started],” Gabriel explains.
“Pretty quickly people recognized that hunger is a symptom of economic distress,” she says. “If you are hungry you probably have an issue with other things, so the church started a donation room that was the seedling of what we have today.”
That seedling blossomed into a thriving organization that provides more than 20 programs to help those in need. Services include an after-school homework club, a community garden, a mobile market of fresh fruits and vegetables, and a literacy program that provides books to children, as well as classes for ESOL, computer use, and job readiness for adults.
“In 2013 we served over eight percent of Beverly residents with food assistance, client support, and education programs for adults, youth, and families. Because of the generous support of our donors, we distributed 23,649 bags of food through our food pantry, provided 730 backpacks to children returning to school, served 612 children through our holiday gift program, and had 15 adults pass all five sections of their GED test,” Gabriel says.