New employees at Chase and Lunt insurance company never spend one moment of their first day at the Newburyport office feeling nervous. Kathy Gaiero makes sure of that.
As each new employee arrives at work for the first time, he or she finds a huge, handmade welcome cookie, baked and decorated by the Amesbury customer service representative.
While Gaiero, 58, admits the cookies began as a little joke, the ritual has fast become a favorite tradition at the State Street building.
“I’ll never forget walking in and seeing a peanut butter-chocolate chip cookie the size of a small bike tire that said, ‘Welcome princess Katie!,’” Katie Howlett wrote in an e-mail. “It was covered in purple and pink frosting, had Jolly Ranchers for gemstones, and featured a light-up tiara. I immediately felt at home in my new office.”
As her co-workers learn right away, Gaiero approaches baking with gusto — and a fun-loving attitude. She’s responsible for creating the birthday cake each month for the office birthday parties, and supplies food for company events and the art show receptions Chase and Lunt hosts for the community. And her pumpkin cake is considered a favorite breakfast item by her colleagues.
“I can’t tell you how many times she’s brought in lunch for a co-worker or randomly surprised us all with goodies first thing in the morning,” Howlett wrote. “She’s regularly saved me with a quick recipe to impress at parties, or thoughtfully sends me the information on dishes she thinks I’d love. She does all of this out of the kindness of her heart ... and her love of baking!”
That love first took hold when Gaiero was just a pre-teen, she said. One day she watched as her sister quickly made a coffee cake. It looked amazing, Gaiero said, and like something she could do herself. So, she got started simply creating cakes and breads from boxes of mix.