Santa Claus doesn’t have much on the carriers of the United States Post Service. What St. Nick does one night of the year, the mail carriers do on their routes day in and day out. They don’t just deliver cards, letters and packages, but become an integral part of their routes and the people who live there.
Standing in the back room of the Price City Post Office early Saturday morning before Christmas, it looked like mass chaos. In fact, it is a well choreographed dance performed daily that result in volumes of mail being sorted, stacked and packed by the clerks and carriers before they head out on their routes.
Customer service supervisor Sandra Koon watches over the process. She came to the Price office in June along with the new post mistress Jamie Bingham. Koon oversees what happens with the mail from when it arrives from the Provo office at about 5 a.m. until the final mail is collected and sent on its way back out after 5 p.m.
“No mail is left in the facility. We clear everything every day,” said Koon. “It is either delivered to its destination or returned for proper information. We do not hold any first class or priority mail.”
Over 17,000 pieces of mail and 45,000 flats went through the post office last week. Flats are magazines, catalogs and other larger mailers. Because of the increase of catalogs, the volume of flats goes up drastically starting in October and then drastically tapers off the two weeks before Christmas, just as parcels reach their peak.
There are nine full-time city carriers, one part-time flexible (PTF), three city carrier assistance (CCA), four full-time rural carriers and four rural carrier assistants (RCA) that help make up the team that gets the mail out daily. Their day starts as early as 7 a.m. and goes for as long as it takes to get their route finished. Weather, a large volume of mail or other obstacles may turn an eight-hour day into a marathon affair.
Most of the carriers have been doing the job for a long time. They know the families and faces of those they take mail to every day. They become the eyes and ears for the community, watching for problems, helping get lost dogs home and keeping track of the homes in their territory.
Shel Jensen has worked for the post office for 31 years. He said when he was younger, the Christmas rush used to stress him out, now he looks forward to the extra time to visit with the homes and businesses to which he delivers.
Trent Hanna has been delivering in Price for 10 years. He loves the job year-round, but admits weather and stray dogs can add a little frustration to things. He is the president of the letter carrier union and said they have a great relationship with management. Hanna knows that carriers make a difference in many lives just by being a constant presence. He recounted that recently he encountered one of his regular patrons out walking.
“She grabbed my arm and asked if I knew where she lived,” Hanna said. “She was suffering with some dementia. I was able to take her home and make sure a neighbor could come and stay with her and contact family to help.”
Mark Montoya is the union steward and also thinks there is a good working relationship. He is in his fifteenth year. He has a route in Helper. On a recent day, he was saddened that one of his long time patrons had passed away, leaving him with emptiness for the upcoming holiday. “She came out every day and talked with me. I am broken-hearted,” he said.
Raylene Schmidt is a RCA carrier and her route goes from behind the hospital, over to Indian Hills Trailer Court and to the apartments behind Walmart and up Airport Road. Despite the miles she logs daily, she still looks forward to making someone’s day by taking few minutes to talk. She says she has a few on her route that may not have anyone else to visit with them.
Sixty-five miles a day is how far Megan Allred, RCA, travels on the route she does as she heads toward Wellington. Allred also fills in for other carriers when needed. She has a pretty quiet route, but loves it when the kids come running up when they are expecting a package or letter.
Linda Bradstreet goes in the other direction with a route in the Spring Glen and Carbonville area. “I love my people,” she said with a broad smile. “I don’t always like the weather, especially the snow. Some days I talk to quite a few, but there are days I don’t see anyone. Those days don’t happen very often.”
Senior carrier Rayne C. Jensen was loading her truck for the day. She took several large piles of packages by the door and quickly turned it into an orderly line of boxes into the back. “I pack it tight so they don’t go sliding when I turn the corners,” she explained.
Many boxes Jensen delivers are from other delivery companies as part of the “last mile.” This time of year also taxes the memories of all postal employees. They remember years of customers moving around the delivery area, so that special card or letter does get to Grandma or friends with missing, changed or incomplete addresses.
The USPS takes delivery from UPS and FedEx and then tracks the boxes and packages before transporting them to homes and businesses. This is what is referred to as the last mile. The carriers are glad to do this and look forward to being able to distribute so much holiday cheer.
Not to be forgotten are the clerks that greet the customers each day. Kin Gabosi and Lana Anella work full-time in Price. Angel Koss and Lori Beard are part time flexible workers. These ladies start shifts as early as 4 a.m., sorting the mail and flats each day in preparation for the carriers. If there is a day when there is a large volume of mail and packages, they may stay as late as 6 p.m. to make sure all the mail is ready to be sent on its way.
Post mistress Bingham wants the public to be aware of what a great job they do in getting the mail to the carriers and waiting on the public. The behind the scenes work that they do is crucial to the day-to-day operations of the facility and each carrier being able to deliver mail on their routes every day.
Bingham knows how hard her carriers and the clerks work every day. They take each piece of mail seriously. From a check to a Christmas card, a care package to a loved one or a delivery from Amazon, each is valued by someone and they realize prompt delivery is crucial.
But far beyond that, it is the community connection that each and every carrier, staff and administrator at the post offices that makes the job worthwhile.