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Postmaster takes route

Richard Sheffield delivers as an incentive for postal workers to contribute to charity

Richard Sheffield delivers as an incentive for postal workers to contribute to charity

December 29, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

A mail sack thrown over his shoulder, Hagerstown Post Office Postmaster Richard Sheffield peered from under a knit cap, appearing confused, and shuffled through a stack of mail, contemplating which boxes got which letters.

A 20-year post office veteran, Sheffield hadn't delivered mail on a route in three years. But as an incentive for post office employees to increase their contributions to the Combined Federal Campaign, an annual fund drive for local and national charities, he agreed to deliver mail if employees increased donations by more than 5 percent than they gave last year.

They delivered. So Sheffield delivered on Tuesday.

Employees more than doubled their contributions, said postal carrier Stacy Roberts, who helped coordinate the local campaign and the incentive pitch.

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Ray Everett, who also helped coordinate the drive, said that the $4,000 raised this year was donated to charities of the employees' choices.

Among the donations was a $1,000 contribution to the Parent Child Center in Hagerstown.

"I think it's an excellent idea," Sheffield said as he eyed mail slots in a building in the 1300 block of Potomac Avenue. "If it motivates the employees to give back to the community that they live in, it's great."

Postal carrier Donna Finafrock, whose North End route was randomly chosen as Sheffield's course, looked on as he fumbled with mailbox keys and accidentally passed a building. She ran that mail to the building.

"It's like riding a bicycle. Once you do it, you don't forget," Sheffield said and laughed as he hustled between building entrances.

He was allotted between five and six hours to deliver mail to more than 500 residents.

Everett said that when the incentive was announced at the beginning of November, "people who would normally give between $2 and $5 upped it to $10."

Roberts said the donations were made in different ways, but many people chose to have the donations taken out of their paychecks.

"It became evident the first day" that Sheffield was going to have to carry a route, Everett said.

He said that employees jokingly presented Sheffield with a lottery that included only one route, "route 33," which is an East End route that is long and requires the carrier to frequently get in and out of the car.

"They did that to trick him," Finafrock, a 27-year postal veteran, said. She said the real lottery was made up of carriers' names who contributed this year to the fund.

Sheffield delivered mail Tuesday because of obligations he had the rest of the week. He said he wanted to deliver the route before the new year.

Standing on a sidewalk, Sheffield, wearing a green winter coat and no gloves so he could better sift through his stacks, leaned back to get a better view of the building he stood before and realized he missed something.

He smiled and said, "I have a feeling we're going to see a lot of (carriers) out here today deviating from their routes."

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