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Utah County police officers, nurses and others on the clock on Thanksgiving

November 22, 2018

Enjoying a hearty meal and spending time with family and friends is a traditional way to spend Thanksgiving.

But many in Utah Valley will be at their jobs, working on the holiday. In many cases, their work helps to keep the rest of us safe or helps us to enjoy our holiday more. These are stories about some of those people and how they will work and also celebrate.

Dan Thomas, Utah County Sheriff’s Office sergeant

Working on holidays is not unusual for law enforcement officers. Sgt. Dan Thomas with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office does not mind working this Thanksgiving. In fact, his team is also working on Christmas.

Thomas works in the department’s Eagle Mountain location, in a substation at the City Hall. The city is a unique place to be a public safety officer.

“You get rural police work along with city police work,” he said. “We’re pretty good about keeping holidays in context and thinking about the meaning of Thanksgiving.”

Feeling grateful for their jobs and the uplifting interactions that they have with people in the community help them to enjoy working on the holiday, he said.

The other officers on his team are good about switching shifts to accommodate special family get-togethers and dinners.

“One guy I’m switching out this year will spend his first Thanksgiving off,” Thomas said.

Thomas has worked with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office for 15 years. Even though it is a holiday usually spent at home with family, the day is often a busy one in Eagle Mountain.

“There will be times that it will get really busy. There are always an extra amount of calls for family problems,” he said.

The officers will not miss out on a meal for Thanksgiving.

“Our families will take care of us and the community often gets involved,” Thomas said. In fact, the deputies are usually treated to several nights of dinners around Christmas. “If not, we’ll be eating at Beto’s or wherever is open.”

Sara Olsen, oncology nurse

Sara Olsen will not be home with her family on Thanksgiving Day, but will be helping people going through some of the most difficult trials of their lives – battling cancer. Olsen is an oncology nurse at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.

Olsen, who lives in Pleasant Grove, will celebrate the holiday with her family, including her husband and 1-year-old son, siblings and parents, the day before. Then, on Thanksgiving, she will work a 13-hour-shift.

This is nothing new. Olsen has worked in the medical field for 10 years, first as a certified nursing assistant for seven, then a nurse for three.

Being in the medical field means working holidays. She alternates special holidays; working on Thanksgiving this year means she will be working on Christmas next year.

“It always bothers me until I get to work. Then, I realize that I’m healthy enough to have a job. These people, the patients, are so sick that they can’t go home for the holiday,” Olsen said. “The people are so grateful. Those that are the most sick are the most grateful.”

Many of the patients that Olsen works with have family or friends who come to the hospital to celebrate the holiday with them. Some do not have anyone. That’s when volunteers step in to spend time with them, although volunteers are more sparse on special days such as Thanksgiving.

Olsen is grateful for her job and her family who will celebrate early with her and be waiting for her when she gets home.

“It’s definitely the hardest and most emotionally rewarding job I’ve had,” she said.

Katherine Bishop, baker

Katherine Bishop enjoys baking bread and she does not mind spending part of Thanksgiving Day doing just that. Bishop, from Orem, is a baker at Kneaders Bakery and Café in Orem. While the restaurant is not open on Thanksgiving, the baking for the following day must go on.

This will be the first year that Bishop has worked on Thanksgiving – she just began her job at Kneaders a few weeks ago. “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday,” Bishop said. “I just love food.”

Bishop’s father, who used to work as a chef, does much of the cooking on the holiday, and her family comes together for the meal and to be with each other. They will still be able to do that this year because Bishop will be beginning her work day at 3 a.m. and be finished by 10 a.m., which will give her plenty of time to go to two family parties before the end of the day.

Bishop’s job at Kneaders is to bake the variety of the restaurant’s breads. The breads are all formed by hand, which can be tiring, but enjoyable.

“It’s really fun and is a really good environment,” Bishop said. Between 500 and 900 pounds of bread dough are made at Orem’s Kneaders location every day.

While it is Bishop’s job to prepare the bread for baking, other employees have different responsibilities. Some create the pastries, some build sandwiches and others work with customers. In fact, to prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, otherwise known as “Pie and Roll Season” at Kneaders’ bakeries, all employees work the day before to help customers prepare for their holiday dinners.

Marla and Aliya Weaver, restaurant server and host

Mother and daughter from Pleasant Grove, Marla and Aliya Weaver, are both looking forward to working on Thanksgiving at Chuck-A-Rama. Marla works at the Draper location while Aliya works in Orem.

“Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year,” Marla said, adding that people like to come to the restaurant for their special meal on that day because they either have large groups and do not want to cook or their family members are out of town for the holiday.

“It’s so much fun. I get to celebrate with all of these families,” Marla said. “Everyone is working that day, which makes it fun.”

Marla, who works as a server at the restaurant, is accustomed to working on Thanksgiving. She has worked for the company for 15 years and has worked many Thanksgiving days.

While Marla is working, Aliya, 16, who works as a cashier and host, will be busy at work as well. This will be her first time working on Thanksgiving — she has been working at Chuck-A-Rama for just five months — and she knows the restaurant will be bustling.

“It comes with the job. I like staying busy. It will keep me on my feet,” she said.

Marla and Aliya will not be missing their family Thanksgiving meal while they are both working this year. They celebrated with their loved ones the day before.

“What’s nice about that is that everyone can come,” Marla said.

Trent Stanley, fire captain

Since 2004, Captain Trent Stanley has worked as a firefighter for the Lehi Fire Department. During those years, many holidays have been spent at work, fighting fires or responding to other emergencies. This year is no different.

“It’s not bad,” Stanley said. “We would like to be home with our families, but our department treats us well.”

In fact, while Stanley and others in his platoon are on duty, they will be enjoying a large dinner and pie while family members often come to join in the festivities.

There are three fire stations in Lehi and at each one, they will be cooking for the Thanksgiving dinner.

“We’ll all pitch in, then come together for the meal,” he said.

Thanksgiving is not typically a busy day for the firefighters in Lehi, although Stanley said they do get a fair amount of calls.

“There are more people deep-frying and smoking turkeys,” he said.

Spending Thanksgiving this way is not unusual for Stanley, he said. His dad was a firefighter and he grew up celebrating many holidays with his family on other days. It’s not the exact day that matters, but spending time celebrating with family, he said.

This year, he looks forward to eating pie with his own family at the end of the day when they come to the station for a visit.

Michael Johnson, movie theater usher

Everyone who works at the Water Gardens Movie Theater in Pleasant Grove and will be in town will work a short shift on Thanksgiving. That way, everyone will have a chance to also celebrate the holiday outside of work.

For Michael Johnson, who has worked at the theater for about 18 months, working on Thanksgiving is not a big deal. This will be his second time working on the holiday.

“It’s OK. All of my coworkers will be there. It’s really fun,” Johnson said.

One thing that makes the job fun, he said, is that so many people come to see movies. Johnson said many people like to come after they eat dinner, watch a movie and relax.

Johnson works concessions, as an usher and cleans up the theaters when the movies are over. He and his coworkers also get to watch the movies that are shown at the theater. He recommends that people come watch “Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch,” which has been a popular show at the theater this month.

According to Water Gardens owner Mike Daniels, the entire Thanksgiving weekend is a popular one for moviegoers. Adults like to drop their children off to see a movie while they go shopping, and people enjoy taking a break to watch a movie, he said.

Mindy Catterson, dispatcher

For 13 years, Mindy Catterson has worked as a dispatcher for Provo, taking calls about a variety of different emergencies. The dispatchers take turns working the holidays and this year, Catterson will be working a 10-hour shift on Thanksgiving.

“My family waits until I get home,” Catterson said, about celebrating the special day. Additionally, the dispatchers hold a potluck dinner on that day so there is no shortage of holiday eats while they are working.

“There’s always food on Thanksgiving,” she said.

The dispatchers keep busy on Thanksgiving with the usual emergencies with a few fire calls from people deep-frying their turkeys and some holiday-related family disputes. Other calls are not life threatening. “We get a lot of phone calls from people who need help cooking the turkey,” Catterson said. Most of these are people who are alone and the dispatchers encourage them to reach out to family members.

Being a dispatcher is a stressful, but rewarding job. Some of the most memorable things Catterson said she has done are talking someone through delivering a baby, reuniting lost children with their families and getting help for people having suicidal thoughts.

“Anytime I’m able to help people, it’s rewarding,” she said.

Catterson’s family is accustomed to waiting for her to come home for Thanksgiving dinner, opening presents on Christmas and doing fireworks on Independence Day.

“My family is pretty understanding. They’re proud of the work I do,” she said.

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