While You Gather and Revel with Family and Friends, Remember there are Many who Spend the Holidays Working

There are many professions that require sacrificing time away from family, friends and loved ones during the holidays. We didn’t want to forget these dedicated individuals, so we met with several people in our community who go out of their way to serve others—even when it means missing out on the big celebrations themselves.

Cape Coral Police Department

Cape Coral Hospital Emergency Department 

Master Sergeant Allan Kolak has spent 21 years on the force with the Cape Coral Police Department. That means he’s spent many holidays away from his two children.

“It does take a toll to a point. We are a 365-day, 24-hour operation, but we know that coming into this career,” he says. “It really just comes with the job. We staff the department with the same number of people on a holiday as any other day.”

Master Sergeant Kolak also gives credit to those on the force who look out for others who might want some extra time off during the holidays.

“You will see some of the single officers or the officers with grown children do shift trades so that those with little ones can be home with their family over the holidays,” he says.

During his 10 years with the Cape Coral Police Department, Master Corporal Phil Mullen, the father of five children, has also missed holidays, birthdays and other special times with his family.

“It’s just part of the job,” Phil says. “When I was working patrol, I had some holidays off and some I worked. When you are working, you sort of have to make your own holiday. Maybe we’d celebrate on Christmas Eve or have Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. You just make it work.”

“We are also definitely our own family here,” Allan says. “A lot of times different departments will offer their own festivities or even [CCPD] families will invite other officers over for food when they have a break. We take care of each other.”

Even private citizens are willing to offer a hot meal and some holiday cheer to members of the force.

“We often have community members reach out and offer invites to officers who are working and might not have holiday plans,” Phil says. “They’ll even send their addresses via social media to invite officers over, or they will actually bring food here. We really live in a wonderful community.”


Cape Coral Hospital

Stephanie Smoker, a licensed practical nurse at Cape Coral Hospital, has not spent one Christmas Day with her 4-year-old daughter.

“It comes with the job. I knew there would be sacrifices when I decided to pursue a medical career,” Stephanie says. “We’ve typically done our Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve. This is truly a job where you can be at work any time of day and any day of the week—holiday or not.”

That doesn’t mean the Cape Coral Hospital staff doesn’t have their own special version of holiday merriment and fun.

“We do a potluck and have lots of decorations, and we always dress in holiday scrubs,” says Kristen Denton, a registered nurse in the emergency department. “We want to make it festive. Not just for us, but also for the patients who have to be in the hospital over the holidays. Our patients are really the ones who don’t want to be in the hospital over the holidays.”

Even with the hardship of being away from home during a holiday, these medical professionals also see the bright side of caregiving.

“The worst part was when my kids were younger and I was not able to see them actually see what Santa brought on Christmas morning,” Kristen says.

Her two children are now 14 and 19.

“The best part of working around the holidays is being with the patients.”

“If we can’t be with our family at home, at least we are with our second family here at the hospital,” adds Beth Dowd, the director of the Emergency Department and mom to a 9-year-old and 11-year-old. “My husband is also in a medical field, so sometimes we end up having Christmas on Dec. 27! When the kids were a little younger, we sort of had to trick them when Santa was actually coming.”

Most of all, the staff camaraderie and friendships are very apparent.

“We are all in it together,” Stephanie says.


PetCoral Veterinary Hospital and Resort

Don’t forget our furry friends’ caregivers. Many people travel during the holidays, and sometimes their pets need a loving place to stay. PetCoral offers full-service pet boarding, veterinarian care, grooming and more.

Front desk administrator Ryan O’Hara will likely be the first person you meet when you arrive. He also works behind the scenes to ensure all the pets are enjoying their “vacation” from their pet parents.

“Sure, it’s hard to be away from my family during holidays,” Ryan says. “I’ve had dogs all my life, so I love being here, and I love this job.”

Ryan moved to Cape Coral from upstate New York about a year ago, and he’s absolutely dedicated to his job at PetCoral.

“My goal is to be animal control officer,” Ryan says. “I’ve done a lot of volunteer work at the local shelter back home in New York and in animal control working with at-risk and troubled dogs. It’s just my passion. I love it when a dog gets a forever home.”

PetCoral offers boarding for dogs, cats and even more exotic pets. They do request you call in advance to for availability and healthcare requirements.