Need to feed

Postal worker carries bag of canned goods

USPS employees collected thousands of pounds of food for people in need during the May 12 Stamp Out Hunger drive, even if the weather wasn’t ideal in some spots.

Despite cold, dreary conditions in the Midwest and near-record heat in the East, spirits remained high.

“The rain doesn’t stop us from delivering mail and it didn’t stop us or our customers from donating and collecting food,” said Chad Starkey, a St. Clair Shores, MI, letter carrier.

The National Association of Letter Carriers leads the annual one-day drive with help from the Postal Service and other partners. The collection total is still being tallied, but some local numbers are being reported.

About 100,000 pounds of food were collected in Flint, MI, along with 57,000 pounds in Columbus, GA; 38,000 pounds in Bloomington, IN, and nearby cities; and 26,000 pounds in Altoona, PA.

More than 1.6 billion pounds of food have been collected since Stamp Out Hunger began in 1993, including 75.3 million pounds last year.

Donations are delivered to local pantries. The drive is held in the spring because many school breakfast and lunch programs are about to be suspended for the summer, leaving millions of children to find alternative sources of nutrition.

About 42 million people in the United States struggle with hunger, including 13 million children, according to Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization.

In addition to collecting food, many postal workers take pride in making donations themselves.

William Hart, a Columbus, GA, letter carrier, said he donated 2-3 cases of canned goods this year.

“Anything to keep a belly full when it comes to kids who are hungry,” Hart said.

‘Always busy’

Marine sits at desk, completing postal paperwork

Most mornings, the first semi-trucks arrive at 8 to drop off the mail at Camp Foster, a Marine Corps base in Okinawa, Japan.

Sgt. Montonio Kenan prefers to say the trucks deliver morale.

“Postal to me is a morale booster,” Kenan recently told DVIDS, a military news site. “I have deployed and have seen how Marines react to seeing that … letter that just says ‘I love you’ from family. That’s what we do, we bring them this morale.”

Kenan is one of the military postal clerks stationed at Camp Foster, home to what some describe as the Marine Corps’ busiest Post Office. He’s one of the many members of the armed forces whose contributions are being recognized in May, which is Military Appreciation Month.

With thousands of Marines and their families living on base and in the region, it’s not unusual for the Camp Foster Post Office to receive multiple deliveries of mail and packages each day.

“We are always busy,” Kenan said.

When they aren’t processing mail, Kenan and the other Marine postal clerks provide all of the services of a regular Post Office, including dealing with many of the issues that their USPS counterparts also address.

“Customers come in and ask where their package is, or ask why their tracking number says that it was delivered when it hasn’t been. It is our job to help them understand the situation,” said Lance Cpl. Kishawra Barrettpearson, another postal clerk.

“We do whatever we can to help the customers,” she said.

Bright future

Postal worker holds mail tray near delivery vehicle

Virginia Genao recently achieved one of her major goals: She became a U.S. citizen.

“The process was hard, but I was determined,” said Genao, a Midlothian, VA, rural carrier. “Citizenship was the only way for me to have a secure future.”

Co-workers celebrated with Genao, who was previously a human resources manager in her native Dominican Republic.

“She always does a great job, and all of her co-workers were happy for her,” said Acting Postmaster Bruce Babbs.

Genao relocated to Virginia eight years ago, then joined the Postal Service in 2014.

“Few federal agencies hire legal residents, so I was thankful that USPS was there for me,” she said.

Now that she is a citizen, Genao, who holds a master’s degree in human resources, sees a bright future with the organization.

“I enjoy helping people, so I intend to use my education and experience to give back to USPS through a human resources path,” she said. “I’m just getting started.”

Container enthusiasm

Archival photo of 1916 mail truck

You probably visit it every day, but how much do you know about your mailbox? To help mark Mailbox Improvement Week, here are five facts.

1. Curbside mailboxes have been around for more than a century. In 1896, when the Post Office Department began experimenting with rural free delivery (RFD), some customers used homemade wooden boxes as mailboxes, while others used cigar boxes, soap and feed boxes, drainage pipes, sections of stovepipe and other salvaged material. Many farmers were reluctant to invest in new mailboxes while RFD was an experimental service.

2. Mailbox sizes continued to vary for years. In 1913, when Parcel Post was introduced, many rural mailboxes could hold only the smallest packages. One Maryland carrier complained that some boxes on his route were not big enough to hold a mail-order catalog, let alone merchandise. If a package was too big and the customer didn’t live within hailing distance, carriers were instructed to leave a notice in the box asking the customer to meet him at the mailbox the next day. This system wasn’t ideal, forcing carriers to sometimes haul around the same packages for days.

3. Tunnel-shaped boxes became standard in 1915. The Post Office Department adopted two standard mailbox designs that year. Both boxes were tunnel-shaped, one of the most popular styles due to its simple construction and weather-resistant design. Any manufacturer could make the mailboxes, but only compliant models received the Postmaster General’s approval.

4. Modern mailboxes have been around since 1960. The department approved the modern-style “contemporary” box for rural use. This style had been used previously by suburban residents served by city routes, whose mailbox choices weren’t subject to regulation. Postal officials have continued to adjust mailbox specifications since then, including approving next generation mailboxes in 2015 that are large enough to hold multiple packages.

5. Mailbox Improvement Week is a longtime tradition. The program originated in 1938 as “Clean Up Rural Box Week.” The effort continued to focus on rural mailboxes each year until 1942, when the program was suspended for seven years due to World War II. In 1957, the program was widened to include all curbside mailboxes.

The usps.com Postal History page has more information about mailboxes. Got ideas for future editions of “The list?” Email them to uspslink@usps.gov.