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St. Vincent College campus post office stays busy

| Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 5:37 p.m.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Donna Werner, manager of the Saint Vincent College post office, puts Valentine's Day mail into mailboxes on Friday, February 14, 2014.

St. Vincent College junior Stephanie Rukavina picked up a long rectangular box on Valentine's Day from the campus post office, fairly sure the package contained flowers from her boyfriend.

“I wasn't expecting it, so I'm excited,” said the junior from Leechburg.

Donna Werner, who manages the post office on the Unity campus, said holidays keep her, assistant manager Maria Schiafano and four student aides busy stuffing 1,745 student mailboxes.

Werner has worked at the post office for 25 years, with the last 10 as manager. During that time, even with the increased use of email and text messaging, the daily whirlwind at the campus post office continues, especially since enrollment has increased from about 1,100 when she first started.

“Try to get it in; try to get it out,” Werner said.

The typical day starts with the incoming mail, when the office normally receives at least one tray of letters and at least seven laundry basket-sized bins. On a busy day, like those leading up to Christmas, the workers have to sort three large carts of mail.

Werner knows many of the students by name, including one who asks “Miss Donna” to open her box for her, or Jameson Ragan, a sophomore business major who often gets mail since his family is from the Los Angeles area.

“It's always a good surprise to get stuff from back home,” he said.

Werner said she likes mentoring students, many of whom are out on their own for the first time and may have never had to visit the post office before.

“When they're freshmen, you have to guide them,” she said. “They always need a little bit of guidance. They're coming out into the world not knowing anything, and you've got to help them a little bit.”

The students who assist Werner sort faculty mail, administrative mail and monastery mail.

Interdepartmental and “house” mail between students gets handled in the Placid Hall office, which runs methodically, like the inner workings of a clock.

The system for delivering packages starts with a spreadsheet of students' names, then a ticket is put in each individual mailbox before the student approaches the counter to sign it out.

On the February holiday, Werner handled at least 10 bouquets of flowers, but what worried her more were the perishable items: two edible arrangements and chocolate-covered strawberries sent through an online store.

Those students got emails, then phone calls before the end of the day, but all of the valentines were delivered to their recipients.

Between now and the end of the year, Werner said things will slow down without any similar holidays, but over the summer, they will stay busy even without any students.

Staff prepare during that time for a new crop of incoming students, organizing the mailboxes and bracing for the onslaught of textbooks and supplies that students buy online.

Werner is thankful nothing too unusual has come through the office, except for the occasional bouncy ball, message in a bottle or 60-inch television set.

She said the “hubbub” is continuous.

“It might not be busy with mail, but it's busy with other stuff, getting ready for the upcoming year,” she said. “We're always busy.”

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or