As the death march of the United States Postal Service continues, Evan Kalish of Going Postal blog is doing his best to visit and document the post offices that are slated to be closed. So far, he's visited 2,745 post offices in 43 states.
This one above is in Junedale, Pennsylvania, and sadly it has a common tale:
The town is just south of Hazleton, which itself is near the intersection of Interstates 80 and 81 in northeast PA. This was a meaningful visit for me; there was a local resident in the office who detailed to me the story of the beautiful landscaping in front of the post office.
Three years ago this post office looked very different. A local Boy Scout earned his Eagle Award for providing community service. What did he do? He fixed up the front of the post office and made it beautiful.
First up: You see the trees and roses out front? This Eagle Scout planted them. The rock gardens? Also his work. If you look closely, you can see a bench right below the sign between the trees. Guess who built it! Yep, he did. He donated the new Junedale Post Office sign as well. Isn't it fantastic?
By my understanding, the final item was to extend the flag pole. Literally, he made it taller. Why? The Postmaster told me that it's because the flag used to drag on the roof of the post office. Now it waves without interference. (It wasn't windy when I arrived there, so we couldn't really see it in action; but we can see how it clears the roof, right?)
This is one anecdote that demonstrates the social importance of the post office to small communities such as Junedale across the country. Even though it's the only business in town, residents sure take pride in it. Outside the post office, when I was taking these photos, I told a resident "I hope you can keep this office open." Her response: "We do, too."
Rural communities across America are experiencing the indignity of being exposed to boilerplate 'public meetings' wherein they're basically informed that the decision has been made to close their post office. According to a resident I asked outside this post office, the public meeting felt canned and the residents felt the decision had already been made to close their office. This story was repeated to me in small towns all across Pennsylvania this weekend. Every single time I asked, I got back the exact same response.
Closing a local post office, especially in rural towns, can have repercussions far beyond just having to drive a bit further to another facility to send your mail - these post offices are often the heart of the community, sort of a de facto town center where people connect with each other.
The sad part? Even closing all of the local post offices aren't going to come close to solving the financial woes of the USPS. Josh Sanburn of TIME Magazine explains:
"Closing post offices has almost nothing to do with the financial problem that the postal service finds itself in today," says Hutkins, founder of savethepostoffice.com. "Virtually nothing. The cost of operating these post offices and the amount of money that will be saved by closing them is minuscule in the context of the budget of the postal service and the deficit that it's running." [...]
By the USPS's calculations, closing all the 3,650 post offices up for review would save just $200 million, or 2% of the deficit of about $10 billion. But it would also eliminate thousands of jobs. "This is a problem I really struggle with because it seems so irrational," Hutkins says.