Jonathan Isaacson, chair and CEO of supplier Gemline (PPAI 113948 S11), was vague in describing the amount of charitable giving that the Lawrence, Massachusetts, supplier donated to the local community and beyond over the past year. But the truth, Isaacson told PPB Newslink, is that he can’t yet put a number on the true amount of the supplier’s philanthropic involvement; an effort the company is fully dedicated to.

Partly he was exercising discretion, but on the other hand, with more than two weeks left in the year, he couldn’t put an exact number on it. Gemline’s charitable gifting program has quietly been a centerpiece value at the hardgoods supplier for a very long time. The efforts to identify and support worthy organizations run year-round, and some of the gift allocations Gemline has already made this year will continue into early 2022. Isaacson did announce that the company in 2020 made more than $500,000 in donations, mostly in and around its headquarters community of Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Many local organizations benefitted from Gemline’s community support this year, Isaacson says, with causes such as the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence receiving contributions ranging into the six figures.

“The only reason to write about these gifts is if somebody else [in the promotional products industry] follows us,” Isaacson says. The give-back program falls under Gemline’s efforts to be an industry leader in corporate social responsibility (CSR), complemented by its work toward diversity, equity and inclusion, environmental sustainability and more. “This is core to our culture in terms of who we are and what we do.”

Although some large donations—such as the gift Isaacson notified the local Boys & Girls Club of last week—happen near the end of the year, Gemline is constantly doing due diligence on local programs to ensure that it can make the greatest impact in the community with what it gives back. Isaacson sits on a number of boards and is actively involved in researching the effectiveness of the organizations and programs Gemline may support.

Isaacson describes the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence as “a safe haven during the COVID storm,” a place where children have been supported and tutored throughout the pandemic. Other major beneficiaries of the gifting program in 2021 included the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, a public health center that is a critical medical resource in the area, in addition to programs that provide mentoring and mental health support in local schools.

Virtually all of the needs that Gemline’s latest gifts are aimed at addressing have been exacerbated by the health and economic challenges of the pandemic, which have tended to have greater detrimental effects on underserved communities.

Lawrence is a gateway community, Isaacson says, a poor area with a large population of new immigrants. As far back as the 1800s it and nearby Lowell, Massachusetts, were known for their textile mills, staffed largely by new arrivals from Europe. Puerto Ricans and Dominicans led population growth in the latter decades of the 1900s.

“We have been quite fortunate as an organization,” Isaacson says of Gemline. “Last year and this year, financially, were really good years. And so our feeling is that we can give back not only to our team members internally, but we can give back to the community where our team members live and where we’re a part of the fabric of the community.”

Because of their means and organizational nature, businesses often have greater skills, resources and opportunities to support philanthropy than individuals. For years, Isaacson says, he didn’t discuss the charitable gifts he made through Gemline among employees.

“I don’t really care if anybody buys from us because we give back in the community; we give back in the community because it’s the right thing to do, with no expectations,” he says. “If other suppliers or distributors want to copy what we do, great, all the better. That would be the best return on this, for other people to engage with their community, wherever their community is. There is an inexhaustible need right now.”