Community organizations, businesses offer support to former NARH employees


NORTH ADAMS -- After a three-day notice, they were out of work.

But with North Adams Regional Hospital completely closed -- at least for the time being -- the local community is pitching in to help its former employees.

As many as 530 hospital employees lost their jobs on Friday. Though the former staff members will be eligible for unemployment benefits, it could take several weeks for checks to come in, and the shocking announcement left little time to plan or save.

Valerie Schwarz, executive director of the Berkshire Food Project, started a GoFundMe campaign Friday to purchase gift cards for former NARH employees. Though the goal is set a $3,000, Schwarz raise more than $2,000 in just the first two days the site was active.

"I was thinking about, if it was me ... I would live paycheck to paycheck. Then to be told in three days I'm not going to have a job, it would devastate me," Schwarz said.

Schwarz hopes the gift cards can be used as a temporary way to fill up a gas tank or buy groceries until unemployment benefits kick in, she said.

"Just a little bit of money ... just to help," she said.

Former NARH employees are encouraged to call Schwarz at the Berkshire Food Project (413-664-7378) or private message her on Facebook to be included. Schwarz is planning to purchase the first gift cards on Tuesday.

In a message to the community, Adams Community Bank President Charles O'Brien offered former NARH employees "flexibility" in making loan payments, as well as early access to certificates of deposit without penalty.

"We know that each individual affected by this unfortunate situation may have unique financial needs stemming from the sudden closing of the hospital," O'Brien wrote.

MountainOne Financial CEO Thomas Leavitt also offered support, saying the bank is assessing how to move forward.

Greylock Federal Credit Union has offered one-on-one sitdowns with former employees to assess their financial situation and help plan for the future.

Other local businesses have stepped up to ease the minds of those now out of work.

The North Adams Movieplex offered a free showing of "The LEGO Movie" to the NARH staff, attended by about 100 people, according to Scott Ingalls, general manager of the cinema.

"Right away, I wanted to do something.," Ingalls said. "I put it up on Facebook, and we got a ton of reaction."

The theater also gave away free popcorn and allowed families to bring in their own food and beverages.

"We could have easily made money on the concession stand, but that's not what this was about," Ingalls said.

Since the theater was about to end its showings of the film, Ingalls said he actually had to call the film company and extend its rights through the weekend.

"I have a lot of friends who worked [at NARH]," he said. "My wife used to work there."

Frog Lotus Yoga, on Beaver Street in North Adams, offered free Friday evening yoga classes to all former NARH employees.

"In a time of change and transition, [we] wish to help you relax and find joy in these yoga classes," the company posted on its Facebook page.

All former NARH staff can also enjoy free Aqua Zumba classes at the MCLA pool, courtesy of Zumba Fitness in the Berkshires, every Tuesday at 6 p.m.. Those who are already members can enjoy any class for free until June 30, the company posted on its Facebook page.


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