Wendell postmaster’s job in jeopardy if office closes
Wendell Postmaster Charlie O’Dowd knows many of his customers, like Helen Haddad of Wendell, who stopped in at the Wendell Post Office on Friday.
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There’s a groundswell of support to keep the office open in advance of a meeting scheduled for July 8 by postal authorities. Townspeople are trying to reschedule the 1 p.m. hearing in the Town Hall because it's not convenient for many, and are requesting an evening meeting.
Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »
WENDELL — Like counterparts in other small towns around the state and nation, the Wendell Post Office faces the threat of reduced hours, or even closure, as a way to help the U.S. Postal Service cope with continued revenue losses.
But in this close-knit community of fewer than 900 people, whom Postmaster Charlie O’Dowd has been helping for nearly 25 years, there’s a groundswell of support in advance of a meeting scheduled for July 8 by postal authorities.
“It’s a center of activity in Wendell,” said Robbie Leppzer, who helped organize a “Save Our Wendell Post Office” campaign — ironically, on a townwide email list — after receiving a Postal Service notice that included a survey to consider whether to cut hours to six a day, or to eliminate the facility next to the Wendell Country Store and Deja Brew Cafe and Pub.
Even though the Postal Service is trying to slash costs by cutting hours at many locations, reducing staff through attrition and consolidating its processing centers largely because of a continued decline in mail volume, Leppzer points to a report that says the agency’s fiscal insolvency has been caused by a push by Congressional Republicans to privatize the service, by requiring it to fund 75 years of retiree health benefits over a 10-year span.
Leppzer argues that a scheduled 1 p.m. hearing in the town hall is not convenient for many townspeople, and has called on residents to request an evening meeting.
“Charlie is a beloved part of our community,” said Leppzer. “We all feel a personal relation to him, because he’s gone above and beyond. If we were to lose our post office, we’d lose a significant part of our community. And he’s won numerous awards from the postal service.”
Due to recent cutbacks elsewhere, including the closing of Millers Falls and Warwick offices, along with cutbacks in Montague Center, Shutesbury and New Salem, he said, many customers in Wendell are from surrounding communities.
O’Dowd’s fans include postal customers like Anne Diemand Bucci in the Mormon Hollow section of town, whose mail now comes from the Turners Falls Post Office since the Millers Falls Post Office closed. That’s because her family’s Diemand Farm gets chicks delivered every other Wednesday morning at the Wendell Post Office ever since up to one-third of her delivered chicks were dying because of delayed evening delivery schedules.
“Charlie gets a call from the driver, and he calls me, so I’m there when the truck gets there and they’re not sitting around for a while,” she said.
O’Dowd has also handled shipments of turkeys, racing pigeons and bees for the rural town’s beekeeping and livestock-loving population.
Diemand also brings about 70 packages of donated items twice a year for deployed military troops to the Wendell Post Office for Operation Touch of Home.
“Charlie’s very easy to work with,” she said. “He will get us boxes and customs forms if we need them. We can get them through the Internet, but it sometimes takes a couple of weeks. He makes things very seamless.”
Wendell resident Matthew Stamell once received a letter addressed only to “Aslan, Wendell, Mass.” because O’Dowd knew it must have been intended for Stamell’s golden retriever, in a way that no urban delivery center could have.
The 69-year-old postal worker keeps the Wendell Post Office open during his lunch hour because he knows that’s when the UPS and Fed Ex deliveries are made and some of those deliveries require signatures.
Leppzer questions why a cutback of two hours a day in the Wendell Post Office is being considered when the Wendell Depot Post Office, less than five miles away, remains open two miles away to serve a small number of houses in that part of town. The cost of renting the Wendell Depot space, in addition to having a part-time officer for the facility, which had its own hours reduced last year, would more than offset the costs of maintaining the existing Wendell Center post office as it is, he said.
“He gives the Postal Service a good reputation,” said Leppzer, by going out of his way for people and even offering special cancellations on Old Home Day and to honor the town’s Full Moon Coffeehouse and the Wendell Meetinghouse to attract additional customers.
On occasion, he’s also organized an “ugly mailbox contest” to encourage people to spruce up receptacles to meet postal regulations.
You can reach Richie Davis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 269