April Bushee said her year wasn’t as rough as it could have been, so she wants to make a few other people’s year a little better.

Bushee, who works at GE, donated $500 to the company’s annual Thanksgiving turkey drive despite having spent most of the year laid off.

She isn’t the only GE employee stepping up, either. As of Thursday afternoon, company spokeswoman Patty Minichiello said the drive had raised $3,891 — a significant jump from the $2,265 employees contributed last year.

Bushee, 49, had been at GE just over a year in May. Her lack of seniority put her in the layoff that was triggered that month by the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she did not hold her sudden unemployment against the company.

“They had no control over it,” she said. “No company did. I was one of the lucky ones who got to come back.”

Bushee said she had a fairly soft landing. Her husband — a small engine mechanic — was deemed an essential worker and kept bringing home a paycheck, and their initial belt-tightening was relieved when stimulus funds supplemented unemployment checks. Bushee said she got to spend her summer gardening and working on home improvement projects before GE recalled her in September.

“In the beginning, I wasn’t sure,” she said. “Then everything worked out. I’m one of the lucky ones, I guess.”

Bushee said that luck was on her mind when the turkey drive started.

“Last year I did donate, but I think it was about $20,” she said. “Seeing all the sad stories and me having a happy story with returning to work, I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could help someone. ... If I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t do it, but I feel good I was able to do it — especially this year when they want to cancel our holidays.”

Minichiello said the campaign plans to spend $1,600 on 80 turkeys it divides between the BROC food shelf and the Community Cupboard, and then split the remaining money between the two organizations.

Tom Donahue, BROC’s executive director, said GE employees are not the only people demonstrating an enhanced spirit of giving this year, pointing to the almost $42,000 recently raised by the Stuff-A-Bus event.

“That’s a remarkable accomplishment given the fact we changed it to do it safely,” he said. “It’s a whole new format but people responded with incredible generosity this year. I’m sure it had to do with caring for others during the pandemic.”

Unfortunately, demand on social services like food shelves continues to rise, Donahue said.

“We were somewhat overwhelmed yesterday,” he said. “It was an unusual number of people. ... Right now, it’s for the food shelf, but our crisis fuel program starts in two weeks. ... Last week, there were 19 new families. These are people that we’ve never seen before and that’s a pretty significant number.”

gordon.dritschilo

@rutlandherald.com

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City Reporter

Gordon has been a reporter for the Rutland Herald for nearly 20 years. A Castleton State College graduate, he's covered beats from the West county to the city, cops and courts and everything in between.

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