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Postal Service pleads: 'Give us that mail early'

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

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By the numbers

17.9 billion — Cards, letters and packages delivered between Thanksgiving Day and New Year's Eve

658 million — Pieces of mail processed on Dec. 17, the busiest mailing day of 2012

560 million — Average number of pieces of mail processed during the holidays

528 million — Average number of pieces of mail processed daily

29.5 million — In pounds, the amount of mail the Postal Service will process for overseas military installations

Source: Postal Service

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, 11:31 p.m.
 

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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