- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 25, 2004

Chris MacNeill knew that braving the cold on Christmas Day to open his hot dog stand probably would not be a profitable venture.

But the 70-year-old Laurel resident had promised his wife, who is ill, that he would try to make some money to pay their bills, even if it meant spending the holiday apart.

“We knew it would be a bad shot, but we had the time, so we had to try,” Mr. MacNeill said yesterday.

For the first few hours, instead of selling items from his cart at Independence Avenue and Seventh Street in Southwest, Mr. MacNeill and his son became more like Santa Claus.

“A few homeless guys came by, and we gave them some stuff,” said Mr. MacNeill, an 11-year veteran of the vending industry. “It’s so cold, it was the least we could do.”

Many others in the District ventured from their homes on Christmas to work at shops and greet residents with holiday cheer.

At the ChopHouse & Brewery in Northwest, 800 needy children and their parents were given toys, warm coats, groceries and a Christmas roast turkey and ham dinner. The needy families also enjoyed a visit from Santa Claus, clowns and magicians.

“These families could not afford to have dinner here,” said the restaurant’s event director, Alison Marlow, who did the fund raising for the annual charity event. “It’s more than heartwarming. Everyone has got a smile from ear to ear. This is what Christmas is all about.”

People all across the Washington area celebrated Christmas at work.

Though most of the Starbucks coffee shops in the District were closed yesterday, baristas Edith and Elsy volunteered to work at the chain’s Cleveland Park store.

The two workers, who declined to give their last names, said customers were glad they could order their lattes and peppermint hot chocolate before seeing “The Aviator” at the Uptown Theater.

“We’re having fun,” Elsy said.

Wudenesh Mola, working at a Capitol Hill 7-Eleven, saw many people buying batteries and last-minute gifts of lottery tickets.

Some customers were “grumpy,” she said, but most of them were in the holiday spirit.

India Callaway, who accidentally came to work one hour early, was looking forward to her day ending at the CVS pharmacy near Eastern Market.

“When I get off, I’ll be eating dinner with family,” she said.

At the Woodley Park Little India restaurant, workers were expecting a fun day.

“We’ll get enough customers today, but not too many,” said server Kabir Jahangir, 31, of the Adams Morgan section of the city. “Everyone is happy.”

Marilyn Newmark, 50, said the customers shopping at the Connecticut Avenue Brookville supermarket were in a good mood. “Everybody comes in and says ‘Merry Christmas,’ ” she said. “They’re glad we are open.”

Among those who worked this year were Safeway employees. The store decided to keep many of its stores open on Christmas for the first time.

The decision triggered an angry protest from the union representing the grocer’s District-area employees.

The company said it didn’t require employees to work on Christmas Day, but instead asked them to volunteer. Those who worked the holiday will be paid up to three times the normal hourly wage and worked a shorter shift, with stores open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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