The way back

Carmen Hightower, a letter carrier at TW House Station in Houston.

Carmen Hightower held back tears as she resumed her appointed rounds this weekend in Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath.

“I was stunned,” said Hightower, a letter carrier at Houston’s TW House Station. “I just feel so sorry for my customers. It hurts to hear what they’re going through.”

As the floodwaters from the massive storm begin to recede, USPS is working to restore service, including delivering mail where it’s safe to do so.

For Hightower and other carriers, this means carefully navigating streets and avoiding debris, such as torn-out drywall, drenched furniture and mildewed insulation.

It also means witnessing firsthand the dramatic evidence of Harvey’s wrath — like a car that floated over a fence onto the grounds of a high school.

“The water was so high, the current took it right over the fence. Customers’ trash cans were strewn all over the school yard,” Hightower said.

In addition to resuming delivery in areas deemed safe, USPS is providing pick-up mail service at Post Offices for displaced customers. Employees are also visiting shelters to help storm victims with change-of-address orders and other requests.

Customers can check the USPS Service Alerts page for the latest updates, while employees can use a new online map to see the operational status of facilities in the affected areas, including damaged Post Offices.

No matter where Houston residents encounter Postal Service employees, they’re expressing their appreciation.

As the water lowered in the Oak Forest neighborhood during the weekend, hopes began to rise when customers saw Letter Carrier Nelson Brown making deliveries.

“He’s been my carrier since I was a little boy,” said Alexis Kenner. “For him to come here on a Sunday? That’s really nice. That’s totally legit.”

Brown expressed similar sentiments.

“They are very happy that I’m back,” he said. “And so am I.”

Post-Harvey help

USPS employees pull pallet of water

A variety of information, aid and other resources are available to Postal Service employees in Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath:

• News and information. USPS has introduced an interactive map that shows the operational status of postal facilities across the nation, including sites affected by Harvey.

Employees can also check the USPS Service Alerts site for updates, while the online USPS Newsroom has the latest Harvey-related news releases.

• Aid and counseling. USPS is reminding employees that they can make financial contributions to the Postal Employees’ Relief Fund to help colleagues whose homes were damaged by the storm.

The Employee Assistance Program is also available to help employees and their families cope with life-altering disasters.

• Other assistance. USPS has sent dozens of pallets of water and ready-to-eat meals to hard-hit facilities, where individual employees are pitching in, too.

At the TW House Station in Houston, employees have collected toothbrushes, deodorant and other essentials for co-workers in need.

“Some people really don’t have anything,” said Arlene Shelton, a station supervisor.

Charitable changes

Postal Service employees can expect changes during this year’s Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), including a later start date and the elimination of cash donations.

The CFC, the world’s largest charity drive, allows federal employees to contribute to more than 18,000 organizations. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) leads the campaign each year.

Here’s what you should know:

• The CFC has new dates. The campaign will begin Oct. 2, one month later than usual, and run through Jan. 12.

• Cash contributions are no longer be accepted. All contributions must be made by check, credit card or payroll deductions — no exceptions.

• CFC events must be informational only. The events must provide employees with information about the program and available charities.

Bake sales, auctions and other events organized to solicit cash are no longer permitted. However, group activities to raise awareness of CFC are encouraged.

• All Postal Service events must be reviewed and approved by the USPS Ethics Office prior to taking place. Organizers are required to seek advance approval from an ethics official by emailing Ethics.Help@usps.gov or calling 202-268-6346.

“Although OPM is making changes to this year’s CFC, I’m confident one thing won’t change: the dedication, commitment and enthusiasm that Postal Service employees bring to the Combined Federal Campaign each year,” said Chief Human Resources Officer Jeffrey Williamson.

“Our employees make a difference in every community across the country. Let’s continue our long-standing tradition of service by supporting this worthy program.”

Employees with questions should email the USPS CFC team.

Winning formula

George Bowen knows why his customers keep coming back — they enjoy receiving excellent service.

“People drive from all over the place just to come to my location because we’re friendly, we’re efficient and we get them in and out of the door as quickly as possible,” the Alexandria, VA, customer service manager says in a new video.

The 3-minute segment is part of the Postal Service’s efforts to strengthen customer service in its retail locations.

The video shows Bowen discussing the importance of point-of-sale surveys. The feedback allows retail associates to improve and be more efficient, Bowen says.

“My [retail associates] go out of their way to score a 100 percent survey result with every customer,” he says.

Bowen asks employees to put themselves in the customers’ shoes.

“Treat customers just like you want to be treated,” he says. “By doing this you’ll have repeat business.”

Father Ted

Father Theodore Hesburgh stamp

Father Theodore Hesburgh, the subject of a new stamp from the Postal Service, was a civil rights champion and the University of Notre Dame’s longest-serving president.

Hesburgh (1917-2015), known affectionately as “Father Ted,” was ordained into the priesthood of the Congregation of the Holy Cross in 1943. He joined Notre Dame’s faculty two years later and became Notre Dame’s president in 1952, a position he held for 35 years.

In 1957, Hesburgh was appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, where he helped to compile reports on racial discrimination and the denial of voting rights that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

He also championed other causes, including education reform.

During his tenure, Hesburgh improved academic standards and increased the university’s endowment.

He received many honors, including the Congressional Gold Medal in 2000.

The stamp, based on a 1980 photograph, features an oil painting of Hesburgh standing on the University of Notre Dame’s campus in Indiana.

The stamp, which was released Sept. 1 and dedicated at the university, is available at Post Offices and usps.com. The Postal Service’s news release has more information.

Handle with care

Men unload postal truck in 1937

The Postal Inspection Service has helped protect some of the most famous shipments in history. “The list” looks at five notable examples.

1. Gold. In 1937 and from 1940-1941, $14 billion in gold bullion was shipped from New York and Philadelphia to Fort Knox, KY, using an elaborate system of decoy trains, armed inspectors, steel doors and machine guns.

2. Presidential mail. During the mid-20th century, inspectors oversaw the dispatch, delivery and protection of White House mail using a specially assigned bag. Inspectors also assisted investigations involving threatening letters.

3. The Hope Diamond. In 1958, on the night before it was delivered to the National Museum of Natural History, an inspector protected the famous gem, which was secured in a registered mail cage at the Washington, DC, Post Office.

4. The Lesotho Diamond. When this 601-carat jewel arrived from Switzerland in 1967 amid rumors the mob planned to steal it, three armed inspectors escorted the diamond from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to the city’s Post Office.

5. “CON-CON” boxes. Every year, millions of dollars in bonds, jewelry and money orders move in special “concentration and convoy” containers under inspector-secured conditions between shippers, USPS and recipients.

The National Postal Museum’s site has more information about these shipments. Got ideas for future editions of “The list”? Email them to uspslink@usps.gov.