On watch on Christmas day

Dave Merrit, Steamship Authority — Photo by Michael Cummo

Oh, Christmas. That traditional day of home, hearth, family, and presents under the tree. But for those who provide essential community services, there is work to do even on Christmas Day.

Last week, The Times spoke with a variety of individuals, all with different jobs and levels of responsibility, who will be working this Thursday, December 25. All of those interviewed said they enjoy working on Christmas Day.

Many do it in the spirit of gift-giving, to allow co-workers or employees to enjoy the day with family. They also said they enjoy the day’s special energy and the joy of interacting with the public.

Kara Best

Ms. Best is a veteran of Christmas Day at Cumberland Farms at Five Corners in Vineyard Haven where she has worked as a sales associate for six years. She’ll work the late afternoon shift on Christmas Day.

“We switch off from year to year so we all get a Christmas off,” she said. “I don’t mind working. I had last year off and working the later shift still allows us to have a family Christmas and open presents. Our son Christian just turned four so he’s just getting the concept.

“This is the busiest place on the Island on Christmas. There aren’t a lot of stores open. We get people coming in for everything, things they forgot. But then it really slows down around five or six o’clock when people are at home, settled in.”

Nikisha Ferguson

Ms. Ferguson is a sales associate at Xtra Mart on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven. She has worked at the convenience store and gas station for the past three years. She’ll be working Christmas Day, and she said she enjoys it.

“People call up or come in and they are so grateful that we’re open,” she said. “I volunteered to work this year because my boss and his wife have a one-year-old baby so this will be their first family Christmas. I’ll be off by 2 pm, so we’ll have Christmas then with my mother and my brothers and sisters. I don’t mind working: it’s kind of special to see your regular customers and to watch people’s faces light up when they see we’re open. Everyone is jolly on Christmas.”

David Merritt

Mr. Merritt is a veteran of 29 Christmas holidays with the Steamship Authority (SSA). He now works in Vineyard Haven.

“It’s been part of my schedule in the past,” he said. “I chose to work this year so more guys and women can have time with their families. I’ll still get time with my folks. We just start a little later.

“You know, working on Christmas isn’t a bad idea. It can be a really nice time. I grew up here, more or less, and I have a lot of friends I get to see, coming home for the holidays — people I don’t see all year. I saw a guy this week that I haven’t seen in 15 years. Mostly it’s just a hello on the dock, but it’s good. People are happy.”

Mary Holmes

Ms. Holmes is the memory care program coordinator at Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Oak Bluffs. She and colleague Betsy Burmeister, recreational therapy director at Windemere, take turns making Christmas a joyful day for the residents.

Along the way, they have made Christmas at Windemere part of their own families’ holiday tradition. As they have in past years, Ms. Holmes’s daughter, Elinor, 15, and son, Robert, 13, will help Santa (Robert Brabyn, Windemere’s maintenance engineer) make sure that every resident gets a Christmas present.

“We do it every yea,” she said. “We ask staff to get a gift for clients and everyone gets one. It’s really very touching. The clients love it. We wrap the presents, Santa greets them and the kids help with delivery and unwrapping if anyone needs help. Later in the day, we go home and have our family Christmas with grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The kids are older now, so it’s easier to have stockings later in the day.”

Will Bishop

Edgartown police officer Will Bishop, a 2004 graduate of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, will be on patrol from 8 am to 6 pm on Christmas Day.

“I’m on the schedule this year, but I’ve tried to step up and work it in the past so the older officers who have families can have the day with them,” he said. “Actually, It’s kind of nice to drive through town in the morning and see everything so still. The morning hours are pretty quiet on Christmas, then towards the middle of the day, it becomes a normal day with the calls you normally get. I’ll spend Christmas Eve with my fiancée and her family and have a late dinner with my parents in Edgartown on Christmas night after I finish at 6 pm.

“I would say it gives me a little more perspective on the community and the job I have. I get to work in the community I grew up in. It’s good to help out and some day it’ll be my turn to have Christmas off.”