Anonymous donation honors man who was enslaved
An anonymous couple has given Carilion Clinic a $1 million gift to support its employee career advancement program, the Roanoke health system announced Thursday.
The Your Efforts, Supported program (YES) will launch later this year, with a goal to assist entry-level health care employees to earn certifications and further their education to meet career goals. The gift — which will benefit Black employees enrolled in the program — will help Carilion pay to workers’ enrollment fees in degree, credential or certificate programs, as well as associated costs and their regular wages and benefits while they are in school. The YES program is open to entry-level employees of any race or ethnicity.
“This gift makes a profound statement about the value of education and its potential to transform lives through new opportunities while meeting urgent staffing needs,” President and CEO Nancy Howell Agee said in a statement. “We’re grateful to these donors who came forward at just the right time.”
The gift will set up the John Cooker Endowment Fund, in honor of a Black man who was enslaved by the donor’s grandfather’s family and continued to work for them after emancipation. According to the donor, his grandfather as a young boy called the man “John Cooker.”
“Although John Cooker has long since passed, his memory will live on through other African Americans who’ll have the opportunity to achieve the dreams John was never able to realize,” the donor said. “It’s the key reason why we will remain anonymous, and John will not. Our hope is that this gift will inspire others to help hard-working employees improve their lives through education.”
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