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On Christmas Day, those on the job still experience the holiday spirit

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POTSDAM — While families gathered with loved ones this Christmas and most businesses put up “closed” signs, there were still the few who came to work to provide the community with needed services.

Sitting behind the glass windows at the Potsdam police station, Patrolman Kyle E. Fink and dispatcher Jerrid L. Lavoie said the generosity of coworkers and neighbors makes working the holiday a bit easier.

“The good thing about it is that you’ll never go hungry,” Mr. Lavoie said Wednesday, laughing. “By the time I leave tonight, I will be 10 pounds heavier.”

Appreciated were the homemade peanut brittle and fudge by dispatcher Robin Schneider and the chicken pot pie with edible bread bowls made by Sgt. Charlie Daniel’s wife. The fondest tradition, though, Mr. Lavoie and Mr. Fink said, is the tin of coffee brought in by Potsdam volunteer firefighter Bill Enslow.

“For 25 years he has been bringing in that tin of coffee,” Mr. Fink said. “It started in 1988 at the old police department on Christmas to shoot the breeze.”

A police officer at the time came out of the back office in a fit of anger over the absence of coffee, Mr. Fink said.

“So he decided, with that, that he would start bringing it in, and he has ever since,” Mr. Fink said.

Mr. Fink, who has two young sons, said he was able to take a few vacation hours before coming into work, so he could have breakfast with the boys and watch them open their gifts.

But nothing substitutes for the feeling of spending the day with your loved ones, Mr. Fink said.

“I would much rather be home watching my boys running around screaming at each other,” he said.

Down the road from the police station at the Stewart’s shop at Route 56 and Sandstone Drive in the village, store manager Cathy A. Moore and employee Kierston R. Wilson said they were getting nothing but thanks from customers who needed last-minute items.

“We hear a lot of, ‘I’m sorry you have to work, but I’m glad you are here,’” Mrs. Moore said.

Mrs. Moore, a resident of Massena, left her sleeping family in the early morning hours to work her shift.

A senior at SUNY Potsdam originally from Washingtonville, Ms. Wilson said she was unable to get home for the holidays and volunteered to work so that coworkers with families could stay home.

While shoppers were picking up those last-minute items for their own families, they also demonstrated some Christmas spirit.

As one customer cashed out, he bought a scratch-off lottery ticket for each woman, one of whom won $5.

“One year we had a woman that came in and bought three $20 gift cards,” Mrs. Moore said. “She filled out the first two and on the third one she wrote my name and said, ‘Merry Christmas.’”

Mrs. Moore than paid it forward and purchased the groceries of her next customer.

That kind of generosity was demonstrated anonymously at the Nice N Easy convenience store in Canton. While all the other storefronts were dark as night fell in the village, Kasey T. Murray and Christina M. Doughty where dealing with the hustle and bustle of customers coming in for sandwiches, gas and other items.

Ms. Murray said she didn’t mind working the 3 p.m. to midnight shift on Christmas because she was able to spend the morning with her family. Ms. Doughty said the same.

“I get to have my cake and eat it, too,” Ms. Doughty said. “I got up with my kids and watched them open their gifts and then I get to come in here and help others.”

“Everyone is a lot more cheery,” Ms. Murray said. “I was told a customer came in and bought snacks and left them for us at the counter.”

Attached to a bag of cookies was a note that read: “These cookies and chips are for us! Some young man bought them for us. How nice. Merry Christmas!!”

“He also brought in banana bread,” Ms. Murray added.

Ms. Doughty said that kind of generosity doesn’t seem to happen a lot, only because it isn’t spoken about as frequently as it should be.

“I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping others,” Ms. Doughty said. “I like the idea that we are the only place in town open so we can be here for people if they need something.”

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