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Bagels with a Heart

Bruegger's goes organ-ic

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The folks at Bruegger's bagels are showing some heart with a new employee benefit. As of January 1, bakery and commissary managers, as well as employees of Bruegger's headquarters in Burlington, get paid time off when they give blood or donate bone marrow or organs.

Human Resources Director Matt Riley says the new benefit was created because of one particularly inspiring employee: Eileen Rooney, a documentation specialist who has worked for Breugger's for seven or eight years. In 2004, Rooney became the first anonymous living person to donate an organ at Fletcher Allen Health Care. At the time, she didn't ask her employer for any special consideration. Riley says "she underwent surgery to allow another individual to continue her life . . . this benefit seemed like a natural progression." Employees who donate organs can take up to 30 days off, with pay, to recover.

Has the new policy spurred people to give blood or donate organs? Riley says that many of their staff members already give blood. Those who do get up to eight hours of paid time off per year to visit the Red Cross. Encouraging employees to donate organs or marrow might be a harder sell. The company is bringing in a guest speaker next month to talk about life with a donated organ. But "Nobody has said, 'Great, now I can get rid of this pesky organ,'" Riley says, joking.

Riley hopes the policy will help Bruegger's "distinguish ourselves as an employer and do good work in the community." He adds that the organ-donation policy is an extension of another benefit that allows employees paid time off to do volunteer community service. "I have not heard of anyone else doing this in Vermont," Riley says. "A few government agencies do it, but nobody in the private sector."

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