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Postal Service pleads: 'Give us that mail early'

| Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, 11:31 p.m.
Postal worker Tamara Crock-Hartman empties a mailbox at the Clark Building on the North Side Sunday, December 16, 2012. A special collection was taken Sunday to help alleviate some of the rush in production with the holiday season. Heidi Murrin PIttsburgh Tribune-Review

The Postal Service expects to handle 658 million pieces on mail Monday, making it the busiest mailing day of the year.

The Western Pennsylvania District of the Postal Service expects to handle 2.1 million pieces of mail, more than double the 800,000 to 1 million pieces of mail it normally processes.

To get a jump on MailFest 2012, the Postal Service held extra mail collections in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

“This is a big week. We know that. … Many people hold off mailing their cards until later,” spokesman Tad Kelley said. “We're saying, ‘Give us that mail early; it will give us a jump.'”

The Postal Service collection of packages has been “incredible” this year, said Tamara Crock-Hartman, a Postal Service employee who was collecting mail from blue mailboxes on Sunday.

“We've been going on packages since the end of November,” she said. “People are shopping online.”

Some letters collected on Sunday, containing the wish lists of hopeful children, were addressed to the North Pole. In Pittsburgh, they get turned over to postal supervisors who act as elves and answer the letters, said Crock-Hartman, 38, of Shaler.

This marks the 100th anniversary of the Postal Service's Letters to Santa program, in which postal employees provide written responses signed by Santa. In other locales, that task falls to schools, municipalities and community groups.

“It makes a difference in a kid's life,” said Crock-Hartman, the mother of three.

Hundreds of thousands of letters are mailed each year to “Santa Claus, North Pole, Alaska,” the Postal Service said. Unless they contain a complete Alaska address, they remain in the area where they were mailed.

Postal “elves” go through the letters and separate those that wish Santa a happy birthday from those with a serious need.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or csmith@tribweb.com.

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