Cookbooks are a representation of our best intentions – the desire to branch out and try something new, something foreign, a leap from our comfort zones.

Anyone who understands that feeling also knows that a busy life and the ease of routine are a recipe for dusty books. But fear not: Sweet Clover Market wants to put those texts to use, and if it helps rid a bit of that bought-but-never-opened guilt, so be it.

The Essex-based organic and local food market is hosting a cookbook swap to raise money during domestic violence awareness month. The premise is quite simple: Those interested in donating can drop off their new or old cookbooks, and those wanting some new recipes can take a book home for $5 apiece. All proceeds will benefit Steps to End Domestic Violence.

“I have a ton of cookbooks in my house, and I know the joy of buying a new one, reading through the pages, seeing the pictures and discovering new idea,” market owner Heather Belcher said. “I also know the heartache of looking at them on the shelf and realizing you haven’t opened it in a year or two.”

Belcher moved to Vermont about 20 years ago. She worked at Steps – then known as Women Helping Battered Women – for several years and continues to serve on the organization’s financial committee.

The fundraiser comes two months after the town of Essex agreed to provide an extra $1,000 in one-time funding to Steps, which faced a shortfall in the wake of changes to the United Way’s grant process.

The town is among Steps’ biggest benefactors, with more than 180 residents from Essex or Essex Jct. seeking the organization’s help last year alone, according to the agency. That number could be larger since some people choose not to identify their town of residence.

Steps executive director Kelly Dougherty said a store like Sweet Clover serves a broad range of people who may not otherwise hear about Steps’ work.

“Sometimes we’re preaching to the choir,” Dougherty said.

The market compiled more than 100 books already in the swap’s first week. It’s the second time the market has hosted such a fundraiser, Belcher said, though the market regularly uses the tips from its creemee stand to donate to nonprofit agencies in the area.

As a financial committee member, Belcher understands all too well that any proceeds from the swap will represent just a drop in the bucket of Steps’ overall budgetary needs. She believes creative funding sources like this are important, but notes that agencies like Steps don’t have the option to develop a traditional fee-for-service model.

Local businesses can, however, pay the organization to host educational sessions for their staff, teaching how to recognize when someone is in a dangerous situation and how to support those people.

Belcher hopes one day the funding model for agencies like Steps will become government-based, a recognition of an annual need that’s “not going anywhere in our society.” She said it’s also important for individuals to find ways to give back that are meaningful to them.

“A lot of people find a lot of comfort in cooking, some of us also find comfort with eating,” she said with a laugh (she readily admits that she falls in the latter category.)

Luckily, a good cookbook gives both.