By Jack King
Clovis Police Officer Robert Denney grew up in Sauk Rapids, Minn., a town of 5,000. He said he can remember seeing a member of the town’s small police force driving by his family’s house on Christmas Day.
“We knew him and I always appreciated the fact that he was out there working on Christmas,” Denney said.
Today, it’s Denney who’s giving up his holiday to patrol city streets, one of several people the News-Journal interviewed Wednesday who were to be working Christmas Day to make the lives of the rest of us a little safer, or even just a little more convenient.
Denney said he has worked every Christmas Day for the last eight years.
“To make up for it, I try to spend extra time with my family, take a special vacation with my wife. I don’t need a special day to give my family presents,” he said.
“In our line of work, it’s no different from any other day. Officers are needed 365 days a year,” he added.
Fire Department Lt. J. D. Hileman said he and the other firefighters who work Christmas Day don’t feel their fate is any harder than that of thousands of others.
“It’s just as hard for us as it is the guys overseas,” he said. “We knew we’d have to do it when we started. It’s just a part of the job and sometimes it makes a difference in someone’s life.”
But, firefighters usually do find time to celebrate the holiday, even time to spend with their families, Hileman added.
“Usually the shift will make plans. A lot of times the battalion chief will bring a turkey or a ham and other stations will gather here. Families will come, because we’re very family oriented,” he said.
Fire Department driver/operator Weldon Kobe said local businesses often provide dishes for the department’s Christmas party.
Michelle Williams, director of critical care services at Plains Regional Medical Center, has been a nurse for 14 years. She said for about half that time she has worked on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
“Being in the nursing field, especially at a hospital, that’s the expected thing, that you’ll have to make sacrifices on holidays,” she said.
Critical care services include the hospital’s emergency room, its intensive care unit and its Urgent Care service. Those services will be staffed at normal levels on Christmas Day, with about 12 people per shift for two 12-hour shifts in a cycle.
“But that’s just for critical care. There are other areas of the hospital where people also will be working,” she added.
Staff members usually have a potluck on Christmas Day, with each person snacking on the dishes as he or she has time, she added.
Just like work at the hospital, work at Clovis’ adult detention center also doesn’t take a break for holidays. If anything, the detention center can be busier than usual on Christmas, said Lt. Richard Benavidez.
“They’re bringing people in left and right today. We’ve had several DWIs, people who started celebrating a little bit early,” he said.
Still, the feeling at the detention center often is “a little mellow” on Christmas Day, he added.
“Inmates are usually a little solemn. They’re thinking about being here, away from their families, so they just draw into themselves and let the day go by,” he said.
Donna Zahnley, a manager at Allsup’s convenience store on State Highway 311, said she and the other workers who staff the stores Christmas Day also see themselves as performing a necessary service.
“If everybody closed and people needed something, they wouldn’t be able to get it,” she said.
Allsup’s generously pays time and a half to those who work on the holidays, she added.