As most of us gather with loved ones today and tomorrow, there are many in the community who are not able to, for many reasons.
The staff at Northern Montana Care Center spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day making sure their residents have the best Christmas possible.
Ila McClenahan, director of pastoral care and activities, said Christmas Eve festivities begin at 10 a. m., when the residents gather to open the gifts they’ve received from the Adopt-A-Resident program, and eat cookies.
“We want every resident to feel like they are loved and appreciated, ” McClenahan said. “And the support of our community has just been phenomenal.
“There’s a $20 limit, so it’s not extravagant. It’s just an opportunity for the community to show that they care for the elderly. ”
At 2 p. m., the center holds a candlelight service in their chapel.
“We have a service here, bringing it home to them, ” McClenahan said. “It’s very special. ”
On Christmas Day, they have a Christmas party in the morning, and a rousing round of Christmas bingo in the afternoon.
Next door, at Northern Montana Hospital, there are always people who need medical help and the staff provides it, regardless of what day it is.
Carol Culp, a member of the administrative nursing staff, has to clock in from 7 a. m. to 7 p. m. Dec. 24, 25 and 26, which doesn’t leave much time for celebrating with family and friends.
“Nursing is a 24/7 job and we don’t time our sicknesses, ” Culp said. “It’s one of those times in life that it’s not about us as a person. It’s about giving to others. ”
The hospital staff who are all on the clock still manage to fit in a little celebrating, as staff from the various departments throw small parties, when they have time.
“We all share goodies at our little potluck dinners, ” Culp said.
The staff also take the time to try and lift the spirits of the people who have to spend the holidays in a hospital room.
“We just try to give a little extra, because they certainly didn’t ask to be sick on Christmas, ” Culp said.
While no one knows whether we’ll have any snow on Christmas, it does add to the atmosphere if some falls. A white Christmas, though, isn’t always a good thing, particularly for the employees of the local Montana Highway Department.
Matt Ladenburg, the maintenance chief for Havre’s Highway Department, recalled the white everything Havre had two years ago.
“We had people out on every holiday — Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, ” Ladenburg said. “All of those holidays are scheduled holidays and supposed to be days off, but when the weather kicks in, that just goes out the window.
“Personally it doesn’t affect me as much as the guys who go out on the road plowing the snow. They’re the ones sacrificing the time with their families. For me I’ve just got to make sure I’m by the phone. ”
The plow-drivers are duly compensated for their time, paid both holiday pay and overtime, but it can still be tough, making sure the main roads are safe for anyone who needs them.
“They have to be out there as long as the condition exists, ” Ladenburg said. “ So, if it storms all day, we would have guys, different shifts, come in early in the morning to late in the day, a minimum of four hours and as many as many 10 hours each.
“Everybody’s really hoping it doesn’t, but we don’t have any control over that. We’ll just have to see how it goes. ”