Ho-ho-ho help

Postal Service employee collects letters for Operation Santa

Postal Service employees make holiday dreams come true in more ways than one.

In addition to accepting, processing and delivering packages filled with gifts, USPS workers in many cities are participating in Operation Santa, an annual program that allows participants to help families in need by “adopting” their letters to Santa Claus and fulfilling their holiday wishes.

More than 5,000 letters were available for adoption when this year’s program launched Dec. 3, and more than 3,300 have been answered so far.

“It was an honor being a part of the Operation Santa program. I never knew how rewarding it would be to receive those letters,” said Marco Salazar, a letter carrier who helped promote the program during a recent tree lighting in Covina, CA, where he served as a special guest “elf.”

This year, the Postal Service is offering two versions of Operation Santa: a legacy program that allows employees and customers to go to participating locations to adopt letters in person, and a digital program that allows individuals in seven cities to go to DeliverCheer.com to read and adopt letters.

The letters received through Operation Santa are often heart wrenching, particularly those that come from people requesting basic necessities.

Phil Millican, Arizona New Mexico District’s acting Post Office operations manager, was among the employees who helped grant wishes this year.

“I went through the letters with my kids, and we had a family evening choosing our letter to adopt,” he said.

Salazar said his participation in the program is something he’ll never forget.

“The ‘giving back’ experience is a memory I will always treasure,” he said.

The USPS Holiday Newsroom site has more Operation Santa information, including a list of this year’s participating postal facilities.

Inspection Service chief

Gary Barksdale, Postal Inspection Service

Gary Barksdale will serve as acting chief postal inspector, effective Dec. 31.

Barksdale, a 19-year Inspection Service employee, has served as deputy chief inspector for the past three years.

Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan announced his appointment in a memo this week. The current chief postal inspector, Guy Cottrell, will retire Dec. 31.

“Gary has been instrumental in leading strategic planning and governance, response to critical incidents, and development of criminal programs to enhance the investigative and enforcement capabilities of the Inspection Service,” Brennan wrote.

“He has been especially effective at driving Inspection Service strategies to enhance drug interdiction, strengthening relationships with partner law enforcement organizations — including Customs and Border Patrol, Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the Drug Enforcement Agency — and in representing the Inspection Service with members of Congress.”

Barksdale began his career as a postal inspector in Los Angeles and later served as assistant inspector in charge in Phoenix and postal inspector in charge of field operations in Washington, DC, and Houston.

He recently completed a detail assignment as the Postal Service’s acting district manager in Northern New England District.

Positive press

San Antonio Letter Carrier William Salzman II

The holiday season is the time for more mail and packages. It’s also the season for the news media to shine a spotlight on Postal Service employees.

William Salzman II, a letter carrier at Lockhill Station in San Antonio, told KSAT-TV last week about the pride he takes in delivering holiday mail and packages.

“I like to see a person’s face when I deliver a parcel to them, especially the people who are waiting on Christmas Eve when we make our last-minute deliveries,” said Salzman, a 53-year employee. “That always puts a smile on people’s faces. It makes it all worth it.”

USPS facilities also opened their doors to the media to give the public a behind-the-scenes look at the holiday package rush.

For the second year in a row, USA Today offered its readers a slideshow showcasing the Royal Palm Processing and Distribution Center in Opa-locka, FL.

The news media also featured facilities in Springfield, IL; City of Industry, CA; Jacksonville, FL; Lincoln, NE; Scarborough, ME; and Providence, RI, among others.

Other coverage highlighted Operation Santa, as well as one employee’s operation as Santa.

Duquesne, PA, Acting Postmaster Jo-Ann Crovak answers letters that children place in a special mailbox at her Post Office.

“Kids grow up way, way, way too fast, so if there are kids out there that still believe in Santa and write a letter, they should get a response,” she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Need to know

Postal Service Combined Federal Campaign event

There’s still time. It’s not too late to make a charitable donation during the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) season, which is underway through Jan. 11.

Go to the CFC online giving portal to choose from more than 8,000 charities that could use your time or money.

There are several new contribution options this year, including the ability to make multiple pledges and an option for federal retirees to make recurring pledges through deductions from retirement accounts.

Postal Service employees pledged $6.1 million through CFC last year. This year’s fundraising goal is $6.4 million.

The CFC Blue and LiteBlue pages have additional details, including contact information for national and local campaign managers.

In remembrance. Ray Chavez, the oldest known Pearl Harbor survivor, was buried Dec. 13. He died two weeks earlier at age 106.

Last year, USPS honored the Navy veteran by setting aside PO Box 105 at the Cardiff by the Sea, CA, Post Office, where well-wishers from across the nation mailed him birthday cards.

San Diego District employees also held a ceremony where Chavez was presented with a plaque, artwork from a 1991 stamp that commemorated the attack at Pearl Harbor, a giant birthday card signed by employees, and tributes from community leaders.

Postal Bulletin preview. The Postal Bulletin’s Dec. 20 edition highlights USPS products and services that allow customers to return holiday gifts to retailers.

Got news for “Need to know”? Email your submissions to uspslink@usps.gov.

News quiz

Postal Service employee with parcels for delivery

Here’s Link’s latest “News quiz,” a weekly feature that invites readers to test their knowledge of recent stories. The correct answers appear at the end.

1. Approximately how many packages does USPS expect to deliver from Dec. 17-23?

a) 2 million
b) 20 million
c) 200 million
d) 900 million

2. By what percentage is online holiday spending expected to increase this year, according to eMarketer?

a) 16.2 percent
b) 16.4 percent
c) 16.6 percent
d) 16.8 percent

3. True or false: Under USPS ethics guidelines, it’s OK to give a non-cash gift worth $10 or less to a manager on birthdays, holidays or similar occasions.

a) True
b) False

4. Where does the Postal Service rank on Viqtory’s list of the top 10 government agencies and nonprofit organizations that employ veterans?

a) First place
b) Third place
c) Fifth place
d) Seventh place

5. Fill in the blank: Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan recently led a dedication ceremony for a new processing and distribution center in (blank).

a) Portland, OR
b) Portland, ME
c) St. Paul, MN
d) Winston-Salem, NC

Answers: 1) c. 2) c. 3) a. 4) c. 5) a.

Look for a new quiz next week and share your feedback with Link at uspslink@usps.gov.