Christmas all in a day’s work for some

The Rev. Laura Cartwright, associate pastor of First United Methodist Church in Grand Junction, speaks to the congregation during a recent Sunday worship service. She will deliver a sermon during the 9:45 a.m. service at the church on Christmas Day.

Registered nurse Pat Moore, who works in Community Hospital’s Post Anesthesia Care Unit, monitors the vital signs of a surgical patient in the recovery room. She will be on call for duty this Christmas.

While many families are checking their stockings or rolling out of bed Sunday morning to prepare a Christmas feast, Laura Cartwright will be at work.

Cartwright, an associate pastor at First United Methodist Church, will give the Christmas sermon at 9:45 a.m. She started her preaching career this June at the church and this will be her first time leading worship on Christmas Day.

“There is no higher or holier day than the day Jesus came to Earth. If I got my nose bent out of shape about (working on Christmas), I’d be in the wrong line of business,” she said.

Pastors, firefighters, law enforcement, nurses, doctors, pilots, hotel clerks and food servers are just a few of the people who will be working this holiday. Cartwright will have the afternoon to spend with her husband, Brad, and sons Joshua, 26, of Boulder, and Isaac, 14. But some people have a longer shift, something Cartwright’s elder son has experienced as a pilot for Sky West at Denver International Airport.

“He has had to work on Christmas many times,” she said. “He usually lands with friends in whatever city he’s at. I think early on when he was especially young he felt it more than he does now, but he knew going in that that was a high probability for him.”

Community Hospital Registered Nurse Pat Moore also knew she would likely have to work holidays when she entered the nursing profession almost 40 years ago. Moore will work this Christmas on call in the hospital’s operating recovery room. She said she works about one Christmas every three or four years.

“You never like to come in on a holiday but we rotate so ... you just take your turn,” she said.

The hospital staff tries to bring the holiday spirit out in employees by having a potluck dinner sometimes or wearing festive colors or hats. Nurses and other hospital workers also try to make Christmas fun for patients by decorating or serving special food.

“They can be pretty bummed out” about being in the hospital, Moore said, especially if someone is admitted to the hospital for getting hurt while they were having fun skiing or skating, common injuries this time of year.

Moore said the hospital is pretty barren on Christmas and patients who can wait to seek treatment usually do. That’s why she’s used to seeing more urgent cases on Christmas, such as people who need an appendectomy or need a broken bone fixed.

Just as people will always need a place to seek medical attention, they will always need shelter, regardless of the day.

That’s why Executive Director Gi Moon and her staff will be working on Christmas Day at Homeward Bound of the Grand Valley homeless shelter. Some staff will help move cots that morning from one location to the next for the shelter’s emergency overflow program.

Moon will help serve dinner at 6 p.m. and open the shelter for the night between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m.

That morning, everyone at the shelter will wake to find a present at the foot of their beds and enjoy breakfast before heading out for the day at 8 or 9 a.m.

Moon said many families open their homes to people who would otherwise be in the shelter on Christmas, so the shelter population is a little thinner that day. She still expects at least a hundred people to spend the night on Christmas Eve and Christmas, though.

“People don’t quit being homeless because it’s a holiday,” Moon said. “For some of them it’s no different than any other day.”

Moon said Christmas is a “humbling” day to work at the homeless shelter.

“I’ve had thoughts of how blessed I am. It tends to be a time of introspection around here,” she said.

Christmas is a day for gathering families of another sort at fire stations in Grand Junction. Firefighter-EMT Derek Trombetta of Fire Station Three said firefighters tend to bond over meals and sometimes gift exchanges when they spend holidays together.

Trombetta won’t be working this Christmas, but he has worked on holidays in the past. He said Thanksgiving is usually a busier day than Christmas because more people are setting kitchen fires on Turkey Day, but accidents still happen, which is why firefighters work year-round.

“Of course it’s tough. It doesn’t change how you feel about being with your family. But most firefighters feel it’s part of a need. The services need to be there every day,” he said.


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