By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY — At the start of the season, the Amesbury Public Library set a goal for its upcoming adult summer reading program — if its patrons could read 150 books, it would donate $200 to Best Foot Forward.
The program turned out to be a greater success than anyone could’ve imagined, as the library’s patrons stepped up and more than doubled the stated goal, reading 325 books and earning the $200 for Best Foot Forward, which was presented with the money yesterday by assistant library director Erin Matlin.
“We knew the community would do it,” Matlin said. “But it was nice to see that people were absolutely on board with it.”
The library’s adult summer reading program ran from June 24 to Aug. 9, and during that time patrons could register online and record how many books they’d read. The goal of the program was to promote reading among adults, and by setting a donation threshold in addition to offering a grand prize for the top reader, Matlin said the library was able to foster a higher level of community interest.
“We were able to give one of our patrons a gift certificate to the Barking Dog/Ale House as the one who read the most books, and that was exciting, but I think the idea of giving to an organization is a plus for everybody,” she said. “Everyone wins.”
The $200 was donated by the Friends of the Amesbury Public Library, and as it turns out, the program’s top reader could have secured the Best Foot Forward its donation by himself. Salem Boyah, whom Matlin said is a frequent library visitor, took home top honors after he read an astonishing 158 books.
“He was in our teen summer reading program and now he’s continued into the adult program,” Matlin said. “He’s a big reader.”
Best Foot Forward is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping unemployed or underemployed Merrimack Valley residents find work. Rosemary Werner, Best Foot Forward’s founder, said she is incredibly grateful for the donation and said the money will help pay for things like gas cards and haircuts for residents who can’t afford them, and it will also allow the ability to fulfill requests for less common sizes and styles of clothes that need to be purchased.
“We had a gentleman who needed a size 13 shoe,” Werner said. “We didn’t have it, but he needed new shoes desperately, his shoes were falling apart. So that’s great to go off and say we can get those things for people like that.”
Best Foot Forward is based across the street from the library on Main Street, and besides offering clothes for job interviews so the interviewee can look presentable, the organization also provides resume building services, haircuts and transportation.
Since it began in 2011, Werner and her staff have helped 52 local residents get jobs, and also assisted people in need from the Women’s Crisis Center, the Pettengill House, the sheriff’s office and the courthouse.