Postal employees urge early holiday mailing, ask for volunteers

A Soldier mails several packages to the United States from the Rhine Ordnance Barracks Postal Services Center in Kaiserslautern. Postmasters are urging customers to mail holiday packages earlier than usual due to COVID-19.

As with many things in life right now, the COVID-19 pandemic is also affecting mail service around the world.

U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz postal employees are expecting a busier-than-normal holiday mail season. They want two things for the holidays: Customers to mail their packages early and volunteers to help out in the garrison post offices.

“I think many customers have noticed a slowdown in mail from the U.S. all over Europe over the last few months,” said Justin Price, Supervisory Postmaster. “The pandemic is slowing everything down. It may be because postal employees are out sick, businesses are slowed down because of pandemic precautions or whatever.”

Price encourages those mailing packages back to the U.S. to mail early this year.

“We’re seeing some packages take a month or more to get here from the States, depending on where they’re being mailed from,” he said.

One thing is for sure: the 65 garrison employees and 10 local nationals working in the garrison mailrooms will be working under an avalanche of holiday boxes coming in and going out of garrison mailrooms. Price said volunteers can help ease the burden and move packages into, and out of, the facilities faster.

“Volunteering in a mail room is a great opportunity. You meet people from all walks of life and all ranks,” said Natalia Acosta, postal employee. “You learn something new. I had no postal experience but I came in and volunteered, made my own schedule, and I was able to learn from, and work with, a great team.”

Acosta started out volunteering in the Rhine Ordnance Barracks post office, then applied for an opening and has been working in the post office almost two years.

Any service member, government civilian or family member who wants to volunteer can walk into any garrison post office and ask to volunteer.

“Volunteer help is welcome throughout the year, not just during the holidays,” said Price. “It’s funny, I think with the pandemic, we’re seeing a lot more online shopping than usual. Mail has been constantly coming in…more than we’re used to in what are normally slow parts of the year.”

Potential volunteers should go to Army OneSource and register. Volunteer hours are tracked through that web site.

“After that, just go in and see the postmaster at the post office where they want to volunteer,” Price said. “There’s some documentation and a little training and then we put them to work.”