Workers make most of day, despite it being Christmas

Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2002

Christmas morning, most Kenai Peninsula residents awoke to spend time with their families or simply enjoy a day off.

But not everyone.

The few people who did clock in or wait on-call Wednesday were doing jobs that, in one way or another, were invaluable to the many who got to stay home. And although, in many cases, these services weren't in the highest demand, they would be missed if they weren't there.

The people working either made arrangements to let those needing the time most have it, or made efforts to keep their working environments festive. Either way, few people were sore about being on the job.

"I kind of volunteered," said Brett A. Encelewski of Kenai, a clerk at the Tesoro market at Mile 13 of the Kenai Spur Highway.

Encelewski said he offered to work from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, and because of the time, he was still able to share presents with his family.

He said during the morning, the store sold out of eggs, and he received several calls from people thanking him for being open.

A sudden rush of customers supported his claim.

"I figured out I didn't have any dish washing detergent to do the dishes after dinner," said Kenai resident Bill Gregg. "I'm glad they're open. Kmart and Carrs aren't."

Some of the Christmas Day workers took on the responsibility to make life easier for co-workers.

"I'd rather see the rest of my crew have time off and be happy with their families," said Serena Sevener-Byerly, the front office manager at Aspen Hotel in Soldotna.

Sevener-Byerly worked from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and said the adjustments she made to her family time would actually benefit her in the long run. She also said she didn't mind that there were so few people coming or going.

"I do a lot of extra (work) during the slow time," she said. "All I had to do was get up a half an hour earlier and open gifts with my children. Of course, they were happy to get to them sooner. And when I go home, dinner will be waiting."

Warren Wood of Jim's Towing in Kenai said he also volunteered to free up his colleagues.

"The only reason I'm working today is that other guys have family and I don't," Wood said. "I wouldn't want them to be away from their kids."

At Central Peninsula General Hospital, the nurses station was vibrant with holiday trimming and a table had plates filled with cookies, candy apples and candy. Gail Erickson said each nurse puts in a request at the beginning of the year for the holidays they find most important to have off.

"I have worked here a long time," said the 21-year nurse. "My daughter is 22 now. But having Christmas off was important when she was younger."

Tryphena Cockroft, health unit coordinator at CPGH, said the amount of activity in the hospital during the holidays seems to be dictated by the weather.

"If there's a lot of snow, we'll be busy," she said. "Last year we were really busy because of the freezing rain."

The only departments working were emergency, emergency surgery and in-patient care. Cockroft said Wednesday was a slow day, because there were few patients. She said that was something both the staff and patients enjoyed.

"Most of the patients that are able to, we'll send home for Christmas," she said. "It's really nice."

Erickson said the nurses were paid time-and-a-half for the hours they worked and admitted it was a motivator for some.

"A lot of people like the holidays for overtime pay," she said.

Central Emergency Services Capt. Tim Cooper said his crew of five was having dinner with their families at the Soldotna station.

"It's a massive, multifamily function," he said. "We're just an extended family."

Cooper said the day was slow, which afforded firefighters at the area CES stations to all come together to enjoy one another's company. But he said the emergency workers were still poised to rescue those if the need arose.

"People are at home, but they're still recreating," Cooper said. "But, hopefully, people will not get into any trouble today."

Soldotna Police Det. Greg Landeis was working on a case on Christmas Day and said he often volunteered to staff the day. He said although he was actually scheduled to work this year, he's always happy to work on the holiday.

"It's a pleasure to work for my community," Landeis said.

Like many others, Bob Brooks, air traffic manager at the Kenai Municipal Airport, said the three working at the airport tower coordinated Christmas Day schedules based on people who didn't have families.

Although there wasn't much activity on the airfield and little was going on in the tower, he said his crew remained upbeat during their 10-hour shifts.

"Actually, our spirits never get down," Brooks said.

Even Blockbuster Video in Kenai was open. The movie and video game rental store was open from 2 p.m. to midnight. Rio Custodio said the staff was able to choose if they wanted to work.

"We volunteered," she said. "Our boss doesn't make anybody work."

As customers passed by the check-out counter at a regular pace, Custodio said the late hours gave everyone time to enjoy their respective families. In turn, she said the staff was eager to spread holiday cheer. This included giving peppermint sticks to children.

"Here, we're always upbeat," Custodio said. "We actually get quite a few customers, so we do what we can to help out with the atmosphere."

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