Red letter day

Angela Hampton isn’t sure why she was approached to be the face of the Postal Service in a new episode of “Sesame Street,” but if she had to guess, “it’s because I’m passionate about what I do,” she said.

That postal pride is evident in “Elmo Mails a Letter,” the second episode of the 52nd season of “Sesame Street,” which is scheduled to debut Nov. 18 on the HBO Max streaming service.

The fuzzy red Muppet has a passion for mail, too. A 2003 installment of “Elmo’s World” focuses on mail in all its forms and includes “The Mail Song,” sung to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”

Its one lyric? “Mail.”

Elmo helped dedicate the Postal Service’s Sesame Street Forever stamps in Detroit in 2019, as well.

But this episode of “Sesame Street” is special not only because of the theme and the players but because of the timing: It was the first episode the crew filmed on location since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

So it was high spirits all around (Elmo comes by his naturally), and from the sound of it, Hampton had the time of her life.

“They sent a car!” she marveled. That was the day after Mother’s Day, and while she had the day off from delivering mail, it was not a day off from work.

“It’s grueling,” she said, laughing. “Let’s just say I have a new respect for the craft.”

“I had my own trailer,” she continued, still wowed by the experience. At one point she remembers her energy flagging and muttering to herself about needing a Red Bull.

Her muttered wish was apparently someone’s command because — poof! — a Red Bull materialized. “I was treated like I was somebody special,” she said, modestly.

Hampton has worked at the Manhattanville, NY, Post Office in the Harlem section of New York City for her entire 21-year postal career.

She grew up in the area, as well; another reason she believes she may have been chosen for the appearance is “I’m a good carrier, and I treat people the way I want to be treated.”

The single mother also tries “to be a good role model,” including for her 31-year-old daughter, Chanel McDuffie. She knew her daughter would love to see her on television, so she was happy to help.

One of the many perks of the experience was a special video that the character Rosita made for McDuffie, who has cerebral palsy. That really touched the native New Yorker.

“That was the highlight of the whole thing,” Hampton said.

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Gifts from the heart

Registration has opened for USPS Operation Santa, the annual program that allows people to “adopt” letters to help Santa Claus grant holiday wishes for people experiencing hardship.

Beginning Nov. 15, anyone wanting to adopt a letter can go to USPSOperationSanta.com, select the registration link and follow the prompts.

For security reasons, all prospective adopters must be vetted through a short registration and ID verification process before they can participate. If someone has adopted letters in the past, they must still be verified each year.

Letters will be available for adoption beginning Nov. 29. Verified adopters can read the letters and select one or more at that time.

Once the letters are chosen, the adopters must follow the directions they received in their welcome email in order to fulfill requested holiday wishes.

Letter adopters are also responsible for all costs to ship the gift packages, including appropriate postage.

If potential adopters are unable to verify their identity online, for the first time they have the option to get verified in person.

Customers will be emailed a barcode and the location of the nearest participating Post Office location; qualifying offices can be found online using the usps.com locator tool.

The annual program began accepting letters from those in need Nov. 1. The deadline to send letters is Dec. 10 and the deadline to adopt letters is Dec. 22.

The Postal Service has released a video on social media and USPS websites that explains how to participate in the program.

Elder fraud

The Postal Service wants employees to be aware of scams that target seniors, whom online criminals often view as easy marks.

Adults 60 and older are particularly susceptible to elder fraud because they often “have financial savings, own a home and have good credit,” according to an FBI report.

Of the approximately 800,000 complaints of cybercrime reported to the agency’s Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2020, more than 200,000 victims were over the age of 60.

Some seniors are also isolated from family and friends, making them more vulnerable to criminals who use email, text, phone, regular mail and Zoom messages to perpetrate dating, financial and even scams related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The CyberSafe at USPS team recommends seniors take the following steps to protect themselves online:

• Know the signs: Immediately end conversations with callers and others who insist on wire transfer or gift card payments, which are favored by scammers, according to a Federal Trade Commission report.

• Share with care: Be cautious about sharing personal information on social networking sites.

• Report elder fraud: Victims should contact their local FBI field office or file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The Postal Inspection Service’s website and the CyberSafe at USPS Blue page have additional tips.

News Briefs

Scanning snapshot

Scanning snapshot. A snapshot of Postal Service scanning data shows the national rating was 96.98 percent during the week ending Nov. 12, unchanged from one week earlier.

The data was collected Nov. 17.

Central led the four areas with a rating of 97.31 percent, while Atlantic ranked last with a 96.74 percent rating.

Among the 50 districts, Idaho-Montana-Oregon, part of WestPac Area, ranked first with a 98.06 percent rating, while Puerto Rico, part of Southern Area, ranked last with an 85.28 percent rating.

To see the latest data, go to the Informed Visibility website and select “Customer Experience,” followed by “DES 2 Scan Performance.” Postal Service employees must request Informed Visibility access through eAccess.

Delivery data. From July 1-Nov. 5, the Postal Service delivered 91.2 percent of First-Class Mail on time when compared to the organization’s service standard, according to data released last week.

During the same period, USPS delivered 92.3 percent of Marketing Mail and 82.9 percent of Periodicals on time, the figures show.

Let’s chat. Postal Service employees can participate in a live chat with health insurance experts on Thursday, Nov. 18, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

The chat is part of an online virtual benefits fair that is running during this year’s open season benefits enrollment period.

The Open Season LiteBlue page has additional information.

Got news? Email your submissions to uspslink@usps.gov.