By Dominic Trabosci
We’ve known it for a long time, but BAPL’s Janine Santoro is now officially a “Star.” She received the Community Star Award on September 16th from the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the local community.
The award was created by the Iron Pigs to recognize “any person who demonstrates leadership, compassion, dedication and a commitment to make their community a better place.” As part of the award, Janine was given tickets to the game as well as the opportunity to throw out the first pitch in a ceremony prior on the field to the first inning.
Janine was recognized for the many projects she has facilitated at BAPL such as Vocational ESL of the Lehigh Valley, the Tool and Seed Library (which launched in May of 2021 with the help of South Side Vision, Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem, and South Side Garden Alliance), and Voces de la Comunidad: The Latinx Experience in Bethlehem, PA (an oral history project that is aiming to launch this fall co-created by Dr. Mary Foltz of Lehigh University, Javier Toro, and Ronald Johnson Contreras).
Janine has also worked with scholars from all over the United States, including Lehigh University, in order to encourage meaningful discourse and change in support of anti-racism and closing the gap between the academic community and the general public. This includes increasing programming for communities that are often “othered” with the goal of having more diverse, inclusive, and equitable programming, particularly in conjunction with experts from the LGBTQIA, indigenous, immigrant, and POC communities.
Janine also conducts outreach to patrons who are unable to leave their homes for health reasons so that they can access library resources.
When asked what receiving this award means to her, Janine said, “On a communal level, it means that hopefully a lot of people are being connected with the resources that they need and that they are learning something new. It means that when people hear my name, they see me as a representative of the library and think to themselves ‘the library can help me with this’ or ‘Janine will know who to talk to or where I can go.’ Vocationally I have never been able to fit into a box, and so this award for me is affirming that I don’t need to; I could never reach so many people if I did. It also means that taking calculated risks and being outspoken is worth it if it is of benefit to others.”
Janine has had plenty of experiences working with the local community in the past. “Besides the library, I have in the past worked as a chaplain at St. Luke’s University Health Network, and I am currently a minister and elder within Presbyterian Church (USA), helping churches without pastors and supporting social justice initiatives in the religious sphere. I am also currently serving as President of Latino Leadership Alliance of the Lehigh Valley, which seeks to connect the Latinx community with resources for physical and mental health, vocational opportunities, and cross-promoting different community and business initiatives,” she said.
Janine would like to thank the following people in accepting this award: “Josh Berk and Brenda Grow, who have both allowed me the space to try new things without fear of failure and who have supported ‘out of the box’ programs and my participation with community groups to help better the library and what we offer. I also have incredible co-workers at the South Side: Clare Ebner, Stephanie Steinly, and Kay Hutnik. There are also so many people at the Main Library that are wonderful and who help me with all these projects, especially Matt Wolf, Matthew Rothfuss, Regina Kochmaruk, Caitlyn Cuba, and Mary Catherine Bluder. There are also people who I admire very much and have inspired me in this work that are no longer with the library, but I feel present with me as I work everyday: Rayah Levy, Libby Ortiz, Kate Racculia, Elizabeth Saraceno, and Valerie Mann. Lastly, there are also so many community partners and folks that help me to do this programming and outreach, but I especially would want to thank the Honorable Judge Nancy Matos Gonzalez, Tony Ortiz, Guillermo Lopez, Teresa Donate, Councilwoman Olga Negron, Mary Foltz, Javier Toro, Ronald Johnson Contreras, and Yadira Colon-Lopez. I do not do this work by myself, so any credit I get automatically goes to these folks, too. I am filled with gratitude for all of them.”
Congratulations to you, Janine, and thank you for the incredibly selfless and important work that you do for our community, and BAPL.
Photos are courtesy of Janine Santoro