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Holiday duty: For 20 years, family has served Christmas breakfast to officers on patrol

James and Cindy Galland have been hosting a breakfast early Christmas morning in their home for public safety officials since 1991. Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx

On Christmas Day, when families are gathering in their homes and sharing the joy of the holidays, a handful of men and women will be out on the streets, driving around the city and county alone. They are Hastings police officers and Dakota County deputies, giving up the chance to spend one of the most family-oriented holidays with those they love to protect the public.

"They do, literally, sacrifice their time to keep the city and the county safe," said Cindy Galland. "And a lot of times it is a thankless job."

Cindy Galland knows just how much an officer does give up. Her husband is James Galland, a sergeant in the Hastings Police Department.

Back in 1991, when the two were engaged, James Galland was scheduled to work during the day on Christmas Day with his then-roommate Rod Risch, who is also a sergeant now. During their shift, they needed a place to eat, but because of the holiday, nothing was open. Since they had nowhere to go, Cindy Galland decided to make them lunch and supper.

That first year, it was simply filling a need. But as the years went on, it became an act of appreciation, she said, as well as an annual tradition. It's like giving them a second Christmas, an act of recognition for the years the officers and deputies have missed out on their own family gatherings, she said.

Now, each year the Gallands prepare a breakfast at 4 a.m. Christmas morning for the officers on patrol. Officers working the night shift often take a break at that time and have breakfast at Perkins, James Galland explained. It's a slow time of night any day, but especially slow on Christmas. And with the restaurant closed for the holiday, the officers don't really have anywhere else to go.

Having worked several such shifts himself, James Galland knows just how solitary the work can be.

"As a police officer... it gets lonely driving alone," he said. "It's just nice to have a place to go."

The other officers and deputies seem to appreciate it as well, the Gallands said. So do the Gallands' two daughters, ages 10 and 12.

"They love it," Cindy Galland said.

If they hear the commotion and wake up, they'll come down to join the officers and deputies, she said. She added that she likes that her daughters are getting to know the officers, and that she thinks the girls enjoy the interaction and hearing the stories. One of her favorite memories, she said, was when one officer, Amber Weich, sat down with the girls and played a game with them.

Although breakfast is a bit of a break for those on patrol, they're still on duty and can get called out to an incident at any time. Sometimes they can come back to finish their meal; sometimes they can't.

The early 4 a.m. breakfast isn't the only meal the Gallands serve, either. One year they served breakfast, lunch and dinner on Christmas day. This year they're thinking they'll host breakfast and maybe brunch, and maybe even a Christmas Eve brunch. Whatever they do, it's all centered on the schedules of the officers working.

"It's got to always be what's convenient for them," Cindy Galland said.

For her part, it's seeing the joy the meals bring the officers and deputies that makes her want to keep the tradition alive.

"If I can put a smile on someone's face, that makes my Christmas," she said.