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Scenes from a season

Employees display holiday spirit, pride

Postal worker holds package in Post Office work room
Bianka Locklear, a holiday clerk assistant at the Springfield, VA, Post Office, likes the “constant movement” of peak season.

The Postal Service will process and deliver an estimated 15 billion cards, letters and packages this holiday season. This massive effort requires planning, coordination — and the skills of 640,000 USPS employees, all doing their part to get the job done.

These are some of their stories.

‘It’s way busier than I thought’

This is Bianka Locklear’s first holiday season with USPS, and after four weeks on the job, she’s learned there’s never a dull moment.

“It’s way busier than what I thought it was going to be,” said Locklear, a holiday clerk assistant at the Springfield, VA, Post Office. “It’s constant movement all the time — and I like that.”

Locklear, who joined USPS in May as a city carrier assistant in Arlington, VA, jumped at the opportunity to learn a new craft.

She’s thankful to helpful co-workers who showed her the ropes.

“I love working with them each and every day,” Locklear said. “They make it a nice environment, and everyone is so open and willing to help me out if needed.”

‘I love to bring them happy news’

What’s peak season like in paradise?

Not all that different from everywhere else.

Gaye Ibara has served as a letter carrier at Honolulu’s Kapalama Station for 16 years. Like her counterparts on the mainland, she’s seen a surge in holiday packages this year.

“Driving to another state to shop for items unavailable here isn’t an option, so our customers ship in anything they need that can’t be found in a local store,” she said.

Customers on Ibara’s route include local TV journalists, several doctors, a former professional surfer and a small-business owner who manufactures heavy fishing lures and uses USPS package pickup services almost every day.

“The customers I deliver to are an extension of my own family. I see their births, deaths, their families growing up. I love to bring them happy news,” Ibara said.

‘These are somebody’s gifts’

The Postal Service’s 21 network distribution centers, located across the nation, process a variety of mailpieces — including bulk shipments that arrive from major retailers fulfilling customers’ holiday orders.

This makes the centers crucial to processing the estimated 850 million packages that USPS will deliver during this year’s holiday season.

At the Detroit Network Distribution Center, managers estimate an average of 400 truckloads of mail and packages will be unloaded every 24 hours during peak season.

Roberto Flores, a mail handler at the center, said scanning is key: Every scan makes it easier for customers to track their holiday mail and packages online.

“These are somebody’s gifts,” he said.

Despite the hectic pace, Flores appreciates the camaraderie on the workroom floor.

“We work well as a team to get this mail out for delivery,” he said. “It gets crazy busy yet I love this time of year and get a lot of satisfaction when everything run smoothly.”

‘I enjoy helping people’

What’s it like to work at one of the nation’s most iconic Post Offices during peak season?

“It’s so busy, the time goes by really fast,” said Sherry Mims, a retail associate at the James A. Farley Post Office in New York City. “It’s a good feeling, though. I enjoy helping people.”

The Farley Post Office, located in midtown Manhattan, is offering extended hours during the holidays — and customer traffic is heavy with tourists and locals shipping gifts around the world.

“This peak season seems busier. There have been lots of international packages, and people are rushing in to mail things in time,” Mims said. “You have to have patience and keep that cheerful face for customers.”

The 23-year employee especially enjoys helping customers with gifts destined for Operation Santa recipients.

“It’s good to see all those different toys coming in for kids who really need them,” she said.

‘Santa … sent me’

Clarendon, AR, Postmaster Teresa Shelton has worked for the Postal Service since 1993, but she started a new Christmas tradition this year: dressing up as Mrs. Claus.

Shelton often adds festive holiday touches to her attire throughout the season, but this was the first year she had access to a Mrs. Claus costume.

In addition to wearing the red dress with white trim at the Post Office, Shelton visited three classrooms at Clarendon Elementary School to educate future customers about the mail and spread holiday cheer.

“Santa couldn’t make it because he is busy making the toys, so he sent me,” she told one class.

Shelton was so popular with the students, the school has told Mrs. Claus to be prepared to be invited back next year.

‘Every day I’m surprised’

This peak season has been unique for Sarah Kim.

In October, the former Cheyenne, WY, city carrier assistant and South Korean native became officer-in-charge at the Bondurant, WY, Post Office, where she serves about 175 residents.

“Because it’s not like a city, I didn’t know how things work [here] during peak season,” Kim said. “We don’t have any lines, but customers bring lots of packages to send [and] lots of packages are coming in [for delivery].”

She is grateful for the opportunity to work with caring customers in a new environment.

“The customers are so nice. More than 10 have offered to let me sleep at their house if it gets too snowy,” Kim said. “Every day I’m surprised at how nice people are.”

‘It melts my heart’

Kids may not know Earl Musick’s name, but they know his work.

Musick, an employee engagement ambassador, travels throughout Eastern Area, helping managers and supervisors learn how to improve their workplaces.

But Musick is also the cartoonist behind the annual holiday coloring pages that many Post Offices hand out to children.

The popularity of this year’s page earned Musick coverage in the Courier, a Findlay, OH, newspaper.

“I am so honored,” Musick said. “I receive letters and emails from kids all over the country. It melts my heart.”

Musick, formerly a Postmaster, was longtime friends with “Peanuts” artist Charles Schulz. He appreciates the opportunity to share his artwork with USPS.

“The Postal Service has given me so much throughout the years,” he said. “It’s so great to give a little back.”

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