OTTAWA -- It’s a thank you gift that comes that comes with a $70,000 dollar receipt – a hefty bonus to vaccinated employees at Bushtukah stores in Ottawa.

“I thought it was fantastic; very unexpected,” Sonia Blunt, marketing manager at Bushtukah, said. “I know some other people, since then, have booked their second vaccination shot to keep going with it.”

Bushtukah expects all 140 members of their staff will be fully vaccinated within a week or two, but the announcement of a $500 bonus wasn’t intended as a push to get the shot.

“I think it was a way of rewarding those and perhaps incentivizing some of those that hadn’t gotten around to it quite yet,” said Todd Landry, the manager of Bushutkah’s Stittsville store.

According to the company, roughly 90 per cent of employees were already vaccinated before the announcement.

“Knowing that a lot of my coworkers – all of them – are going to be vaccinated makes me feel a lot safer coming to work and I think all the customers are going to feel safer,” said sales associate Julie Chaput.

There were some younger employees with only a single dose but, since the bonus was announced, they’ve all scheduled a second shot.

“It’s not that you have to pay people to get the vaccine but it is a good incentive and it’s rewarding people to do the right thing,” Chaput added.

On top of the extra protection for staff and customers, the bonus goes a long way for retail employees, some of whom struggled during repeated lockdowns.

“It’s been a tough year with my husband too," said Blunt. "He hasn’t been able to work fully when we were in lockdown as well, so that money went a long way. So, yeah, it was wonderful.”

Bushtukah General Manager Dave Morton says the financial incentive will help many employees.

“Our customers have been very supportive of us during the pandemic and our staff have been superb. There’s a number of them that are students that are going back to university in the fall, some of them are leaving this week in fact, so this will be a great little help to them,” he said.

As the push to vaccinate as many people across the city and province continues, staff at this Ottawa store say they are just happy to contribute to the community they serve.

“We’re trying to get an end to this pandemic as fast as we can, so any little thing we can do. I think everyone was really happy to roll up their sleeves and get the shots,” Landry said.