Hundreds of Kauaians have to work on Christmas daay this year

PO’IPU – While much of the island enjoys today as a day off, thousands of fellow Kauaians are reporting to work, as scheduled.

With so many visitor-related industries, including hotels and other businesses like airlines that operate 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, Christmas is just another work day for many who live on Kaua’i.

Or is it?

Hotel-industry veterans have found ways to juggle Christmas celebrations and regular work shifts, and in the case of a few workers at the Sheraton Kauai Resort here, having a family atmosphere at work helps, big-time.

“We have a good ‘ohana here,” said Nick Arruda, a security officer working from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. today. On Christmas Eve, his schedule was 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., so the family plan was to have friends and family members over for dinner at his Hanapepe home on Christmas Eve.

It is an Arruda family tradition to allow the children to open one gift on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning was spent unwrapping everything else, followed by Arruda reporting for duty here.

“This is just like my home away from home,” said Arruda, who has been with the property for five years, and has worked every Christmas.

His family is OK with him having to cut the Christmas celebration short to go to work. “Working in one hotel, you gotta make time when you can,” said Arruda.

And going to work on Christmas Day isn’t all that bad, he confesses. “It’s like a family-oriented place. It’s nice to come on Christmas. Everybody’s happy, everybody’s in a good mood.

“People want to be home with family, but this is OK,” said Arruda. Hotel guests are happy, though they sometimes commiserate with the people who have to work on the holiday, he said.

“I really enjoy coming to work” because of the atmosphere, he said.

“I’ve never been off on Christmas,” said Patrick Ho, executive assistant manager of food and beverage and a certified food and beverage executive (CFBE).

He’s working a 12-hour shift today, with around 60 associates working under him. Besides the hotel’s Christmas buffet dinner from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., there are other meals to serve, and many guests in the house.

“These are the main days of the year, and we are here to make sure guests are satisfied and keep coming back,” said Ho, adding that it is the hotel staff’s intent to make residents feel welcome here, too.

“We all have a passion for the business,” he said. Those who work a morning shift will celebrate Christmas with their families in the evening. Those who work in the evening will celebrate Christmas with their families in the morning, he said.

His family holiday celebration happened before Christmas.

“Our team is very dedicated to this job,” and Ho said he expects both guests and his team of associates to have a good time today.

“We celebrate Christmas with our people,” he said, adding that Sheraton is a good company to work for. “I mean, they care a lot, and it’s reflected in the associates that we have.”

For the first time in a decade, Annette Matheny is off this Christmas Day. An administrative assistant in the sales department, her department is closed today, allowing her to spend some quality time with her children.

Last year, she worked as a reservations and switchboard operator at the hotel, and before that worked every Christmas Day with various helicopter companies on the island.

She’s excited about today, because it marks the first full Christmas Day (or Thanksgiving, for that matter) she has been able to spend with her children in 10 years.

Before, she found herself rushing Christmas celebrating because she had to go to work, after the difficult task of finding a baby-sitter on the year’s major holiday.

She worked a full day on Christmas Eve, in the sales office, where she concentrates on group, corporate, incentive and leisure travel sales, as well as hotel marketing.

As the administrative assistant to the director of sales and the various sales representatives, she does a lot of work on the computer, but with the holidays upon her there weren’t many sales calls yesterday.

That allowed her to catch up on some paperwork, she said. “I’m actually seeing the bottom of my in box today, although in this business you never really get caught up,” Matheny said.

She said advanced sales for the first quarter of 2003 are picking up, and the second quarter is good, too, leading into what she hopes will be a booming summer season.

“We’re recovering from the nine-11 incident pretty well,” she observed.

Finally, she had a few words to say about the holidays. “Jesus is the reason for the season, and I think people sometimes lose sight of that.”

All over the island, many other people are finding ways to celebrate Christmas while working a regularly scheduled shift.

Emergency-services workers like police, fire, ambulance, emergency-room doctors, nurses and staff, and other folks are on the job today.

County trash collectors are handling curbside residential pickups in Isenberg Tract subdivision and other neighborhoods across the island, while also picking up their annual fair share of holiday gifts from appreciative home owners and renters.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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