NORTH ADAMS -- The community is continuing its efforts to offer former North Adams Regional Hospital Employees some small peace of mind.

The Northern Berk shire YMCA Thursday announced that free three-month memberships are available for any former NARH employee, and the Chef's Hat in Williams town donated $400 in gift cards to former staff members.

The YMCA membership will be available to any employee with NARH identification, either in the North Adams or Pittsfield location.

"It's the least that we can do," said Justin Ihne, the CEO of Northern Berkshire YMCA. "I know that the community is rallying behind this very strongly."

The entirety of the 35,000 square-foot facility will be open to the new members, Ihne said, including a full gymnasium and swimming pool. The YMCA also offers more than 25 different fitness classes.

"Hopefully there'll be some positive outcomes in the near future," Ihne said. "In the meantime, the Y is about healthy body, mind, and spirit. Exercise is just one of the pieces not just for strength, but for your spirit as well."

Meanwhile, an effort to provide gift cards to former NARH employees continues to raise money through a GoFundMe web page. Started by Valerie Schwarz, executive director of the Berkshire Food Project, the campaign has now raised more than $4,000.

"My phone has just not stopped ringing," Schwarz said. "I came back to my office and had to return 16 calls."

Schwarz handed out dozens of Walmart and Cumberland Farms gift cards to former NARH staff earlier this week, and hopes to do another round on April 8.

On Thursday, the owners of the Chef's Hat in Williams town donated $400 in restaurant gift cards toward the effort.

"Keep donating," Schwarz said. "I have a lot of people on the waiting list."

Schwarz said the idea of the gift cards is to provide temporary assistance to former employees until unemployment benefits kick in, which can take several weeks.

Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/gift-card-fundraiser or by contacting Schwarz directly at the Berk shire Food Project (413) 664-7378) or via Facebook. Former hospital employees in need of assistance are also encouraged to contact Schwarz directly.

To reach Adam Shanks:
ashanks@berkshireeagle.com
or (413) 663-3741, ext. 225.
On Twitter: @EagleAdamShanks

PUBLISHED APRIL 6, 2014