Christmas no holiday for some - December 25, 2016

Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana • December 25, 2016

By Lu Ann Franklin, Times Correspondent

Traditions abound to celebrate Christmas and, while most workers have today off, many people are on the job to provide everything from medical care to helping stranded motorists.

Some volunteer to work on Christmas Day. For others, the fact that Christmas falls on a Sunday this year means it’s part of their regular schedule.

Ken Decrescenzo, Dyer Wastewater Treatment Plant

One of the main reasons Ken Decrescenzo works on Christmas Day is so others can be with their families. The 61-year-old has been a full-time employee of the Dyer Public Works Department for the past three years.

“It’s just me and my wife, Maureen. We don’t have any children,” said the Schererville resident.

During his five-hour shift at the Dyer wastewater treatment plant today, Decrescenzo will complete a variety of tasks including conducting laboratory tests and making certain all the equipment works properly.

“I work about 85 percent of each work day at the wastewater treatment plant,” he said. “I worked as a meter reader for the Dyer clerk-treasurer’s on a part-time basis for about five years before coming to the Department of Public Works.”

Ellen Long, RN, Neuro-IMCU, Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus in Merrillville

Valparaiso resident Ellen Long, RN, also volunteered to work a 12-hour shift today in the Neuro Intermediate Care Unit at Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus in Merrillville.

“Many years ago we made a decision as a family that I would work on Christmas Day,” said the 57-year-old mother of grown children and grandmother of five. “Years ago, when the children were young, we had Christmas on a different day.”

Long said she wanted to set an example for her youngsters. “I want my children and grandchildren to learn the art of giving, of caring,” she said.

She began working in the neuro unit as a nursing assistant in 1990 then pursued her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing at Indiana University Northwest, which she earned in 1994.

“People here need us,” Long said of her work as an RN on this unit. “This is my passion. It’s a blessing because I’m well and my children are well. I’ll be here until I’m 97.”

One way her children and now her grandchildren have learned the art of giving is by visiting the nursing unit over the years, she said.

“When I was a nursing assistant, my children would dress up in their costumes to trick or treat here,” Long said. “Now my children come up with my grandchildren to visit the patients. My director, Susan Coryell, is the reason I’m able to bring my children and grandchildren here.”

The Neuro IMCU especially appeals to Long because “everything is different every day. No two people are ever alike,” she said.

And her patients appreciate her dedication. In August Long received the Daisy Award, an international program that rewards and celebrates the extraordinary clinical skill and compassionate care given by nurses every day.

A patient nominated Long for the award and wrote about his experience in the Neuro IMCU.

“When you’re lying in a hospital bed there are few things to smile about, but when you wake up and see Ellen is going to be your nurse that day, you at least know you’re going to get the most attentive care and a story to smile about,” he wrote. “You can tell she cares very much. If you need a hug, she’ll give you one even though … she doesn’t know you.”

Gerald Williams, press operator, The Times Media Co.

“I’ve worked a ton of Christmases,” said Gerald Williams, of Hammond, a press operator with The Times Media Co. for the past 29 years.

Williams, 47, begins his shift at 8:30 p.m. on Christmas Day to set up the press for Monday’s print newspaper.

A member of The Times production department, Williams works 10-hour shifts four days a week and is one of the night supervisors in that department.

“It’s just our shift. Nine out of 10 times I’ve worked Christmas it’s just the shift,” said Williams, who began as a press operator in 1987 when The Times was located on Williams Street in Hammond. In 1989, The Times moved to its current location at 601 45th Ave. in Munster.

Tonight Williams will make the plates — sheets of aluminum that each contain the image of a single page of a print newspaper.

“There are 130 or more plates that go on the press,” he said. “I’ll set up the folders, the machines that fold the newspaper pages.”