Gift to Cooley Dickinson will aid employees, local businesses

  • An ambulance backs up to the emergency department at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020.

Staff Writer
Published: 1/3/2021 7:34:51 PM

NORTHAMPTON — An anonymous donation of around $100,000 to Cooley Dickinson Hospital will put $50 gift cards to local businesses into the hands of nearly 2,000 employees.

“We were talking about just how amazing our staff has been during the last year — particularly the last nine months — and we try to do all we can to express our appreciation,” said Joanne Marqusee, president and CEO of Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

But “the challenge is that, like so many hospitals in the country, our finances are strained right now,” she continued, “so the very time that our staff deserved it most, it was hard for us to come up with those resources.”

But thanks to the anonymous donor, the hospital will send the gift cards to all of its employees, including doctors, nurses, receptionists and cleaning staff at its main location and satellite offices. The gift cards can be redeemed at nearly all businesses that are members of the Northampton, Easthampton or Amherst chambers of commerce through the end of 2021, totaling over 100 options across the three chambers.

The benefactor did not request a specific use for the donation, Marqusee said, other than as a way to “show deep appreciation for the staff.” Hospital administrators eventually decided on the gift cards approach as a way to give back to employees and the local business community, which Marqusee said seemed like a decision that staff would welcome.

The community stepped forward for staff with gifts, donations and other acts of kindness when the pandemic started in the spring, Marqusee said, “and the staff had talked about that for months, and how much that meant to them and how much they wanted to give back to the community.”

Members of the participating chambers of commerce welcomed the donation’s use as a show of support for the hospital’s employees and the local business community.

The gift recognizes the extensive time and effort that employees have put forward under the intense stress of the pandemic,” said Vince Jackson, executive director of the Northampton Chamber of Commerce, and “it’s just incredible that the (donor) and Cooley thought this would be the right way and the right time to honor their employees in this way.”

The donation has “a really huge impact,” on the area’s economy, “because when you think about it, first of all the program keeps the dollars local,” Jackson said. “The easy solution would have been to go out and get a Visa or American Express card, or another kind of regional retailer, but the creative thing to do was partner with the chambers and leverage our own, local spending.”

With more people encouraged to shop locally, small businesses will receive a boost in staying afloat and keeping people employed, Jackson noted.

Jackson also believes that the employees “get a real satisfaction for doing their small part in keeping the dollars local and using their spending power to support these businesses,” he said, “so it’s just a win, win, win all around.”

Moe Belliveau, executive director of the Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce, described herself as “out of my mind excited,” when she heard about how Cooley Dickinson intended to use the donation.

“I was delighted that Cooley Dickinson wanted to proceed this way,” she said, “because there are lots of options for folks to say thank you to their employees, and this was really a beautiful, positive gesture … I just think this is such a really lovely way to promote shop local and bring awareness to the exciting things that are going on in the area.”

Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, had similar praise for the donation and its usage, calling it “a huge reinvestment in our community” and token of appreciation for the hospital’s employees.

“They wanted to give something meaningful to their employees, and to them, giving locally to the community they serve felt really good,” Pazmany said. “That’s a creative solution to a lot of challenges as they’re dealing with the crisis.”

Partnerships such as the one between Cooley Dickinson and the chambers, which each include Cooley Dickinson among their membership, will serve the community as a whole in ending and recovering from the pandemic, Pazmany noted.

“As we forge forward, working together is a big part of how we address these health and economic concerns,” she said.

With vaccine rollout in its early phases throughout the state and the country, an essential way anyone can show support to staff is to “stay safe, wear a mask, social distance,” Marqusee said.

“Help us to help you stay healthy,” she continued. “That’s what our staff most want.”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at


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