Mark Baiada just might have won the holidays.

The chairman and former CEO of Bayada Home Health, who's in the process of turning his billion-dollar company into a nonprofit, announced Tuesday that he's giving $20 million away to his 32,000 employees. For field staff, we're talking checks as big as $8,500 for a long-tenured physical therapist and nearly $7,000 for a veteran nurse. Execs get more.

It's a way, Baiada said, for him to show his "deep gratitude and appreciation" for the workers who have helped the company take care of people at home since 1975.

A choked-up Baiada did the big reveal on stage over lunch at The Bellevue Hotel in Center City after a brass band had finished its set. A staffer passed out envelopes to several employees on stage who waited in anticipation for Baiada's green light to open them and see what they would be getting.

Merari Singh, a clinical operations manager who also works weekends as a nurse, was visibly shaken after the announcement. "He never ends to surprise me," said Singh, 42, who's been with the company for seven years.

Nicole Green, a 48-year-old pediatric nurse who works in South Jersey, said she'd use the extra money she got for three years of service for her daughter's college expenses next fall. "I'm overwhelmed by the gratitude and the generosity," Green said.

Mark Baiada, founder of the home health hcare agency Bayada, tears up while announcing that he will give $20 million to his employees at the Bellevue Hotel grand ballroom. Everyone was asked to wear red — “Bayada red” — as part of the event.
Heather Khalifa / Staff Photographer
Mark Baiada, founder of the home health hcare agency Bayada, tears up while announcing that he will give $20 million to his employees at the Bellevue Hotel grand ballroom. Everyone was asked to wear red — “Bayada red” — as part of the event.

The company calculated the gift based on each employee's lifetime earnings at Bayada, a way to honor those who have put in the most time, like those in its "25 Year" club. Even people who started working there this week and haven't yet pocketed a paycheck were to find $50 in their envelopes. The company also made gifts to retirees who left after 2009, provided they had at least 10 years of service.

The company's staff, spread across 22 states, is composed of 40 percent nurses, 40 percent home health aides, 10 percent therapists, and 10 percent office workers. Home health aides are the lowest earners, as their wages follow state Medicaid rates. In some states, home health aides make $15 an hour (Baiada says he is for a $15/hour minimum), while in Pennsylvania aides make between $10 and $12 an hour. Nurses, on the other hand, pull in between $35 to $40 an hour.

The 71-year-old Baiada announced in June 2016 that he would turn the company he founded when he was 27 into a nonprofit to protect it from a sale and try to ensure that it keeps fulfilling its mission. The company, which Baiada said Monday earns $1.5 billion in annual revenue, was a likely acquisition target as home health providers consolidate. Smaller competitors had sold for amounts equal to their own annual revenue or more.

He said the tax issues involved in giving away so much money weren't a big deal. "I'm the sole shareholder, sole board member, and sole officer," he said, "and I'm taking $20 million and giving it away."