Work goes on for many people on Christmas Day

Dec. 24, 2012 @ 11:58 PM

It may be time to deck the halls, but the entire working world doesn’t grind to a halt just because it’s Christmas.

Some people will find themselves on the job on Dec. 25 instead of participating in the usual holiday festivities. According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive in 10 major U.S. cities,  at least 15 percent of employees plan to be at work on either Christmas Day or New Year’s Day.

Police officers and healthcare personnel remain on call, ready to handle holiday emergencies. Fast food workers and convenience store clerks spend time behind the register to ensure that everyone has access to fuel and food during the holiday rush. Work continues as usual for these people while everyone else opens presents and gorges on green bean casserole and fruit cake.

Sanford Piggly Wiggly Owner Greg Adams, along with store volunteers, are manning the store Christmas Day to serve the community.

"I feel it is my responsibility," Adams said. "People need diapers, baby food, medicine, whatever. It is something I have always felt. I need to take care of the community and that is why I do it."

When families are preparing their Christmas meals, someone may forget the drinks or butter, he said, and people always thank him for he store being open.  

Allen Barringer, of Sanford, who works at the Kangaroo corporate headquarters there, is quick to point out a major benefit: “I do get paid double for working holidays.” Most employers do offer financial incentives to encourage employees to punch in on Christmas.

Lee County Sheriff's Office Cpl. Karlik Hill will be on patrol throughout the day and has worked Christmas the past three years.

"It's always good to have time off on the holidays," he said. "But, if I am scheduled to work, I have no problem working."

Ranch manager Elizabeth Bolen, who works at Hill Farm in Siler City, is planning to work through the holidays. Bolen says she's used to working on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; she’s never worked anywhere where having time off was an option.

Despite her diminutive stature, she handles everything from operating a tractor to picking eggs. She picks up five to six eggs at a time from the conveyor belt.

“The birds are an everyday thing," Bolen said. "They don’t stop laying eggs, and we don’t stop picking. We celebrate Christmas around picking eggs and taking care of the farm."

The eggs finally stop parading across the conveyor belt, and Bolen reflects that she finds it much easier to fit holiday celebrations into her hectic work schedule since she lives and works on the same property.

Although egg production will stop the day after Christmas, the work will continue well through the New Year. Bolen and her husband will have to prepare the barn for a new flock. She smiles as she shares how much she is thankful to have the work to do. “There are a lot of people who don’t have jobs right now.”

Luke Vogel, owner of J&D Corner Store in Pittsboro, is also thankful to be running a thriving business during these tough economic times. He admits that he would rather be spending the entire day with his family this year, celebrating his daughter’s first Christmas. Instead, he will be getting up early with his family to open presents prior to coming to work.

“When you are working in retail, staying open during the holidays is a sacrifice you have to make," Vogel said. "Everyone wants to be somewhere else, but with the economy the way it is, every little bit counts.”

Vogel said he closed his store on Christmas Day last year. But this year he plans to keep the store open, saying that closing his doors left too many of his customers in the lurch while also limiting much-needed revenue for the business.

Of course, Chatham County Animal Control will not be opening its doors to customers on Christmas Day, but that doesn't mean Animal Control Officer Barry Shangray is off the hook. Shangray is on call during the holidays in order to address any animal related emergencies that tend to crop up, especially during the winter holidays. The shelter also serves surrounding counties, making the holiday season especially hectic for staff. Shangray says he tries to balance spending time with family before and after work during this hectic time.

Shangray and shelter manager Krista Ritter agree the holiday season is an extremely time busy for staff. In addition to handling adoptions, receiving donations and fielding calls, both employees were on hand recently to accept a record number of 19 animals into the shelter in one day.

The work week continues for many area residents, but most workers don’t experience a huge inconvenience. In most cases, workers receive extra benefits and overtime for working during holiday hours. Having to work during the holidays can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Most people find a way to work festivities, presents and visiting loved ones into their schedules in spite of having to work. It can take some patience, those workers say, plus planning and flexibility, but fitting in holiday celebrations with a hectic work schedule is not impossible, and sometimes there are some payoffs.

Sanford resident Kathy McElreath does miss an occasional Christmas party because of her work schedule at Holly Springs Eye Associates. She said she'd love to have Christmas Eve off, but the timing hasn’t worked out. Still, she appreciates the occasional Christmas tokens her customers bring in.

“Many of our patients really appreciate our service to them and their gifts of gratitude mean a lot to me,” she said.

Herald reporter Anna Johnson contributed to this report.