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Service is priority for postmaster

March 13, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

FUNKSTOWN - When Helen Downs and her staff contemplate the future at the Funkstown Post Office, the impact of the explosive growth in the area is a major concern.

But they say they are determined that customer service will continue to be efficient as well as friendly and courteous.

"I have enjoyed my seven years as postmaster here," said Downs, who has worked for the postal service for 33 years.

Downs shares her duties with three part-time sales/service associates, as they are now called. They are Tammy Staley, Sherryl Shriver and Marlene Sullivan.

"We still think of ourselves as postal clerks," Downs said.

Born and raised in a small town in Baltimore County, Md., Downs said she remembers going to the post office there at an early age to get her family's mail.

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Married to Robert Downs, who works as a firefighter at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., she was a stay-at-home mother when her two sons, who are now grown, were youngsters.

"I was asked if I'd like to take the test and work part time at a post office in Baltimore County," she said.

Her schedule called for her to work eight hours as an office clerk on Wednesdays and four hours on Saturdays - which fit in with her family priorities.

After moving to Washington County, Downs clerked for a number of years in Funkstown before becoming postmaster at the Rohrersville Post Office.

Then she returned to Funkstown as postmaster.

"We still have the personal touch but we are so much busier than we were ... even in just the last year," Downs said.

The lobby is open 24 hours a day.

The windows are open Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

In addition to sorting mail and waiting on customers, the staff takes applications for passports Monday through Friday by appointment.

The post office, which is on Alt. U.S. 40, used to be on Funkstown's main street until about 15 years ago.

There are 754 post office boxes, although not all are residents of the town.

"Residents in town get their boxes free while others must pay," Downs said.

Town residents do not have to pay for the boxes because home delivery of mail is not available in Funkstown.

Behind the windows, packages are stacked waiting for residents to pick them up. The staff was inserting magazines and mail into mailboxes - all in a day's work, Downs said.

"We cover for each other ... we all work the same," Downs said.

On a recent Thursday afternoon when she and her staff were all busy, a customer took the time to say he'd never been in a friendlier post office, Downs said.

Several years ago, the Funkstown Post Office was rated the best post office in its district from October 2001 through September 2002.

That means it was judged to be better than any of the more than 40 other small- to medium-sized post offices in the Baltimore District, which stretches as far east as Ocean City and as far west as Oakland in Garrett County.

"We try," Downs said. "But we are all supposed to be that way anyway."

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