Working It Out: Unlucky Few Face Holiday on the Job

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For Michelle Moricca, a registered nurse at Hoag Hospital, Christmas on the intensive care unit was much like any other day, except that no major surgery or special tests were scheduled and there were a lot more families visiting patients.

Working a 7 a.m.-to-7 p.m. shift on the holiday, Moricca said, "is paying my dues" after less than a year on the job at Hoag.

"Everybody has to take their turn. It's only fair," she said. "Everyone gives a little."

Before Christmas, Moricca explained to her 9-year-old son, Jeremy, that she would have to work on the holiday. She suggested that as Jeremy's community project for school, they make holiday decorations for the ICU, which they did, hanging them on the doors of the rooms.

The family then arranged to celebrate "a little bit at a time," beginning Christmas Eve. Moricca spent Christmas Eve with her husband and her son at her parents' Newport Beach home, where they stayed the night.

Moricca missed seeing Jeremy open Santa's presents at her parents' house on Christmas morning, but she phoned him during her shift and planned to join the family later.

At Heritage Pointe, the county's Jewish retirement home in Mission Viejo, about 95% of the staff is not Jewish. So this Christmas, the call went out for volunteer workers from the facility's board of directors and support groups around the county. More than 30 people responded, enabling Heritage Pointe staffers to spend the holidays with their families, according to Michael D. Kelner, Heritage Pointe's executive director.

Most of the volunteers served meals and bused tables for the home's 186 residents, although several others signed up to lead activity groups.

"The residents have absolutely enjoyed" the temporary change of personnel, Kelner said.

"We released as many people as we could--except the cook!" said Serene Stokes, director of volunteers.

Eva Borofsky of Northridge said she came to Mission Viejo for the holidays to visit her daughter, "who offered my services here."

The residents, mostly women, seemed grateful.

"I have three offers to move in," said Herb Kramer of Mission Viejo, who volunteered with his wife.

"I only spilled the soup once," said Kramer's wife, Lorraine.

"They gave me a workout, bless their hearts," said Mimi Silverberg of Garden Grove.

"Our tips are smiles," said her husband, Jordan, adding that the work was "my pleasure."

As one lunch patron was leaving, Silverberg reminded her, "Don't forget--matzo balls" for dinner.

At the 7-Eleven store on Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa, Christmas is the busiest day of the year. It is also a family affair for owner Jeff Heinlein.

In order to let his six employees have the day off, Heinlein was working Christmas, along with his parents, who are the store's previous owners, and his sister, his fiance and his best friend, who is the store's manager. They have worked this arrangement for the past four years, Heinlein said.

A sign at a closed supermarket nearby directed people to the 7-Eleven.

Amid a steady stream of customers, Heinlein said he and his family celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, after work. He said he celebrated the holiday with his 6-year-old daughter, who does not live with him, last weekend.

There is a definite pattern to what customers buy on Christmas, Heinlein said. Early morning patrons rushed in for bacon, sausage, milk and eggs. At midday, the preference was for hot dogs, followed by soda, beer and dinner rolls. Heinlein directed a regular customer, searching unsuccessfully for charcoal for her barbecue, to a nearby Thrifty drug store.

One problem, Heinlein said, was that there were no deliveries, so resupply was impossible, regardless of demand.

Holding aloft a lengthy piece of paper, Heinlein said: "I have a list of things I ran out of--for next year."

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