Working Christmas: West Shore workers do their best to keep things ‘normalized’

Families with little ones in care being taken care of themselves

Christina Peacock (right)

While many West Shore residents will wake up Christmas morning with no intention of venturing outside of their homes for a while, others are rolling out of bed and getting ready for work.

BC Transit operator Coralie Leslie is one of many drivers who will be shuttling people around on Christmas Day, delivering passengers to where they need to be.

“I don’t have a fixed route … I drive all the routes,” she said. When Leslie does have her pick, she enjoys the Goldstream Avenue route. “It’s almost a two-hour round trip,” she said, comparing it to in-town routes that feel like she’s driving in circles all day.

“I quite like working Christmas Day. It’s quiet and the people you are carrying around are in a good mood. It’s a nice feeling,” she said. While many might hope for a white Christmas, she prefers it doesn’t snow because that makes her job a lot more difficult.

In terms of her shift, Leslie said she’s working “an early straight, which means I’m off by 2 p.m.,” and that sits quite well with her. “As long as I’m off in time to go for dinner.”

While Leslie has enough seniority to have Christmas Day off, she prefers to work at least part of the day, so that someone who needs the day will be able to have it off. “I don’t need it, my kids are grown,” she said. “Sometimes it’s just a question of trading a couple hours.”

An operator with BC Transit for 35 years, she came to work for the company at a time when not many women were driving buses.

“I was teaching driving with Young Drivers and to be honest, I got tired of talking.” As much as she loved driving, she didn’t want to take on long-haul trucking or a similar career. Instead, she took up driving transit buses. “I think I was the fourth female operator hired,” she recalled.

“At the time it was an unusual choice, but it worked out extremely well.”

While Christmas is a time for joy and cheer, sometimes those feelings can be overshadowed by aspects of life that don’t take time off for the holidays.

Staff at Victoria General Hospital in View Royal will be busy as usual Christmas Day, making sure patients are well cared for and those who need emergency services are looked after. But just outside of the hospital is another building that can sometimes be missed.

“The hospital works hard to get people home … but you can’t rush that process,” said Christina Peacock, Jeneece Place house manager. Every year the facility hosts families who are unable to spend the holiday season at home while loved ones are in care at VGH. “None of those aspects of life stop for the holidays.”

A team of volunteers is taking over the kitchen at Jeneece Place on Christmas Day to make sure all of those families still have a little bit of magic in their lives. The team, who are mostly neighbours, band together every year to fundraise and create a wonderful holiday feast with all of the fixings and trimmings.

“They bring everything in … It’s nicer than I cook at home,” Peacock said. “They also set the table, so it’s very festive.” She noted that families who have enjoyed the meal in the past have commented on the strong memories they made during the event.

For the past eight months the house has been running at more than 90-per-cent capacity, a trend Peacock predicts will continue in the new year. While she can’t say for sure how many families will be there on Christmas Day, she’s anticipating at least five, with some new faces expected to be settling in over the next several days.

Having worked Dec. 25 in the past, Peacock said bringing some cheer to families spending their time at the hospital with their baby or child is important. If she’s able to slip away from the house, she takes platters of treats into the hospital for families who aren’t able to come for dinner – or aren’t emotionally in a place to sit down for a big meal. “Nobody wants to be here, but if you can turn it around a bit, that’s a good thing,” she said.

Recognizing how tough it can be for families with a sick child, the community has always come through, Peacock said.

“I’m overwhelmed at how caring people are. The community is always thinking of us – not just at Christmas but all year.”

Services continue on Christmas Day

There are other individuals getting up the morning of Dec. 25 just like it’s any other work day.

All essential service providers have some level of staff ready for emergencies, and that includes everyone from paramedics to firefighters to dispatchers. But it’s not just emergency responders who are at the ready. Often overlooked are the staff of movie theatres, restaurants, hotels, popular holiday venues and other service workers such as bus and taxi drivers. Whether they celebrate the holiday or not, they are taking time away from their families and friends to help keep things running and perhaps make the day a little more special for others.

So if you encounter someone working on Christmas Day, try to spread a little extra good will their way.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com

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