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GIFTS OF HOPE: Beverly Bootstraps food pantry offers relief for single-income households

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is the third in a four-part series for Wicked Local Beverly’s annual Gifts of Hope campaign.

With four children and two adults under one roof, a weekly grocery bill can add up really fast. Thanks to the Beverly Bootstraps food pantry, Erica* is able to feed her family well and save some extra money for other necessary bills.

Some of those bills include medical expenses for her twin daughters, who were diagnosed with epilepsy and autism.

“I use the food pantry to help because my husband works and he makes too much money,” Erica said, explaining his sole income puts them just out of the range to qualify for assistance from the state.

Stephanie Tyler Smith, Beverly Bootstraps food assistance coordinator, said she sees a number of families just like Erica’s who just need that little extra help to make ends meet.

“A lot of people have one person working in their family who just makes a little too much,” she said. “They’re crucial to why we exist … Because even with a full-time job, some people don’t have enough to survive.”

Erica said she has also taken advantage of the nutrition education classes offered by Bootstraps.

“They show us how to make meals with the food available,” she said.

Through Bootstraps, Erica has become more savvy about budgeting, which includes couponing, shopping sales and perusing Beverly Bootstraps Thrift Shop for clothing and home goods.

When she first went to Beverly Bootstraps eight years ago, the organization helped Erica and her family get into a unit through the Beverly Housing Authority. Though they have since moved out of subsidized housing, Erica said she remembers times could still be tough.

“Part of this program is to help people get through their lives without having to worry about whether or not they’ll be able to pay their heating bill or give their children food,” she said of Bootstraps. “And it can make a huge difference.”

Another aspect of Bootstraps programming that has been making a big difference for Erica is the Kids Eat Healthy Initiative, which offers snack bags for children to take to school, as well as to bring home over the weekend to tide them over.

“For me, that’s times four,” she said. “So that adds up to a lot.”

In addition to the food pantry, Erica said she has enjoyed being able to enroll her children in the adopt-a-family holiday gift-giving program.

“That became an important part of my life last year, when my girls turned 13,” she said. “Even though they have special needs, they aged out of most lists. But they’re still able to be on this list.”

And it’s families just like Erica’s that are the target clients of Beverly Bootstraps.

“We have so much we can offer families with kids,” Tyler Smith said. “We can fulfill so many needs. And we love it when people are able to make use of those programs.”

To learn more about Beverly Bootstraps’ food assistance program, visit www.beverlybootstraps.org.

* Names in this article have been changed.

Give a Gift of Hope

Thanks to the continued generosity of donors, Beverly Bootstraps remains community funded and supported. Donations from individuals, corporations, foundations, churches and local organizations all help provide critical resources to individuals and families so they may achieve self-sufficiency.

This holiday season, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to Beverly Bootstraps.

To send donations, write ‘Gifts of Hope’ in the subject line of your check. Send your contribution to: Beverly Bootstraps Community Services, 35 Park St., Beverly, MA 01915.

You can also donate online at www.beverlybootstraps.org. Volunteers are also always needed for the various programs Bootstraps provides. For more information about Beverly Bootstraps, visit www.beverlybootstraps.org or call 978-927-1561.