Kent State University, City Businesses Show Appreciation to Employees For Dedication During Pandemic
Kent State University staff member Brenda Dillon was among hundreds of university employees who were given Blue, Gold and Grateful $20 gift certificates during the holiday season as a show of appreciation for their roles in upholding the success of the university. Kent State initiated the program with Main Street Kent to support participating downtown businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dillon was grateful for Kent State’s show of appreciation because it further affirmed the university’s commitment to its employees during an unusually challenging time. And thanks to the Blue, Gold and Grateful program, Kent State University employees had the opportunity to bolster the Kent economy as well. Dillon used her gift certificate at Belleria Pizza and Italian Restaurant in downtown Kent.
“It's been a difficult time financially with the COVID crisis, but Kent State has consistently lived its values,” said Dillion, assistant director in Student Financial Aid. “It's such a point of pride to work here and be part of the Flashes Family.”
The gift certificates were part of Employee Appreciation at Kent State, which was an opportunity for the Office of the President and the entire Kent State University community to “thank employees for the impact they make on the success of our students and the university.”
As the 2020 holidays were approaching, Kent State University reached out to Main Street Kent, to see how the university could help support downtown’s small businesses. The Regional campuses also participated in a similar program with local businesses in nearby communities.
Kent State’s Employee Appreciation program included the President’s Award of Distinction, the 20 Year Club and the Outstanding Research and Scholarship Award.
Dana Lawless-Andric, associate vice president in Kent State’s Office of University Outreach and Engagement, said the Blue, Gold and Grateful program was a success for the university, as well as the community.
“The program was a tremendous success given the short time frame that we established it and its impact in the local communities surrounding our campuses,” Lawless-Andric said. “Kent State holds, as one of its core values, a commitment to engagement that inspires positive change and to be a collaborative community. This program embraced both of those values. We understood the impact of the pandemic on our surrounding businesses, while also the desire to honor the tremendous work of our faculty and staff. The Blue, Gold and Grateful program created a win-win to support local businesses and show our employees our appreciation.”
Main Street Kent has worked continuously to find ways to safely promote downtown businesses during the pandemic and was more than happy to participate in the Blue, Gold and Grateful program, according to Heather Malarcik, executive director of Main Street Kent.
“The employee appreciation gift certificate program was a win-win, showing gratitude to Kent State faculty and staff for their dedication through such uncertain times. It breathed some fresh air and shed some hope on our business owners, as it quickly pumped over $30,000 into the local economy.” Malarcik said. “The program helped people pay bills, kept workers employed and even kept some doors open. The timing was perfect, and we're all super grateful for the commitment and support of our downtown.”
Initially the program was scheduled to run through December 2020 but was extended until January 2021 due to the nature of the pandemic and the spike in illnesses that occurred during the holidays. The extension gave faculty and staff the opportunity to use their certificates.
The gift certificates were a great hit at businesses such as Ray's Place. “We received quite a few (gift certificates) and the customers were excited to have and use them,” said Charlie Thomas with Ray’s Place. “It really helped our business during the Christmas season and post holidays. Especially during these Covid times, this was so welcomed. Thanks to all!”
Gwen Rosenberg of Popped! on Main Street in Kent said she was excited about the success of the gift certificate program because it brought in loyal and new customers at a challenging time when it was needed the most. “Those who stopped in made positive comments about the gift certificates and it generated a lot of good feelings about shopping in Kent and the unique businesses that make up our downtown.”
Kent State at Ashtabula campus partnered with the Lift Bridge Community Association, a nonprofit consortium of shops, restaurants and businesses on Bridge Street in Ashtabula’s Historic Harbor area, said Jason A. Tirotta, manager of communications and marketing for Kent State at Ashtabula. A total of 15 shops and restaurants with the LBCA accepted the Blue, Gold and Grateful gift certificates.
“I can’t speak for the LBCA or store owners, but I know it was a nice opportunity to encourage our staff to shop local and support small businesses, many of which were struggling due to the pandemic.”