Many spend their holiday on the job
November 22, 2001
Steamboat Springs — They speed healing and recovery. They care for the elderly. They keep the streets safe. They put out fires. They provide strangers with a place to stay. They ensure that holiday travelers arrive at their destination. They keep their doors open to all frantic shoppers in search of last-minute table trimmings.
And they don’t always get to take the day off for holidays.
Many of Steamboat Springs’ residents spent Thanksgiving Day at work because to take the day off would compromise the safety of those who depend on them.
Emergencies never defer to another day, Anita Baitis said.
Baitis, a medical technologist, joined the ranks of other medical professionals at Yampa Valley Medical Center whose jobs could not be put on hold Thursday.
Rather than despairing about working on a day traditionally celebrated at home, she said she welcomes the opportunity to give other employees with families and young children time to spend together.
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With her husband a pilot and her children all grown, the idea of working on Thanksgiving is not so objectionable, she said.
“Because both of us are gone, it doesn’t seem so bad that I’m not at home,” Baitis said.
“We just have our Thanksgiving later.”
The hospital operates with a smaller staff and lacks the usual amount of activity on Thanksgiving, she said, but accidents still happen.
“There’s also the potential for a skiing accident, or a car accident or something related to drugs or alcohol,” Baitis said. “That’s why I’m here.”
Yampa Valley Medical Center offers a free Thanksgiving meal to its employees in return for their dedication on a day customarily spent away from work.
When the Doak Walker Care Center hosted a noon Thanksgiving meal for patients and their families, Vickie Lickteig, a registered nurse, was there to assist residents in getting ready to meet their families.
“It’s such an exciting time for them that you can’t help but be excited and not sorry that you’re with them instead of somewhere else,” Lickteig said.
Lickteig was still home in time to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with her family.
People in nursing realize holidays are never guaranteed, she said, so they don’t take for granted the holidays they can spend with family and friends.
Area law enforcement paroled the streets and highways as usual.
Criminal activity and calls for assistance either slow to a crawl or pick up on holidays, so officers must remain prepared, Steamboat Springs Assistant Police Chief Art Fiebing said.
That means the entire outfit can’t stay home, he added.
“There are so many things that can happen,” Fiebing said.
Officers with no families customarily trade shifts with officers who have children and wives,
“We may go with fewer people, but we’ve got to have people on duty,” Fiebing said. “It’s part of the job.”
Volunteer firemen still responded to calls on Thursday.
The people who choose to stay in town over the Thanksgiving weekend take up the slack left by people who leave, Jacqui Campbell, Steamboat Springs Fire Department public education coordinator, said.
“Those who are left always turn out,” Campbell said.
“They are a dedicated bunch. They realize there are fewer of them.”
Everything from car accidents to mishaps while lighting the wood stove for the first time might take volunteer firemen from the middle of Thanksgiving dinner with their families, she said.
Area hotels remained open to offer people on the road a place to stay. Gas stations ensured that people had the fuel to get where they needed to go. Restaurants offered full Thanksgiving menus, and grocery stores didn’t shut their doors to people seeking those last items needed to dress their Thanksgiving tables.
Irene Wilkinson, Safeway store manger, said her employees don’t mind working a Thanksgiving shift because the extra time promises some overtime pay.
The atmosphere also affords them a relaxing day of work, she said, as they try to assist customers who forgot to pick up certain items the day before Thanksgiving.
Some people who work up to Thanksgiving need Thursday to shop for their holiday dinners, she added.
Customers have in the past lined up outside the doors before the store opened, she said.
“Some of them would look a little frantic because they had forgotten something for their dinners,” Wilkinson said.
“I would feel so bad, sometimes I just had to let them in a little early.”
People in search of caffeine fixes did not have to go without, either. Mocha Molly’s, a favorite coffee fixture in town, remains open for business every day of the year.
Manager Penny Hamilton said it was the least she could do for her customers.
“The locals are always really good to us,” Hamilton said. “So we like to be good back to them.”