Photo by Johnny Jackson Early morning customers visit the United States Post Office in Stockbridge.
Time is winding down for residents wanting to mail holiday care packages and gifts overseas to military personnel, and others, through the U. S. Postal Service.
Postal Service officials announced this week that the overseas mailing deadline dates range between Nov. 26, and Dec. 17, depending on how packages are mailed. They noted that recommended holiday mailing dates are available on the web site, www.usps.com.
We get a lot of care packages this time of year going to the troops, said Jerry Sparks, post master at the Hampton Post Office.
Sparks said that, through the month of November, the bulk of overseas mail will be going to (Air/Army Post Office, Fleet Post Office) APO/FPO addresses.
Residents, he said, still have a few opportunities to mail cards and care packages, and have them reach service men and women overseas in time for the holidays.
He said the deadline for Space Available Mail (SAM) is Nov. 26. SAM parcels first transported domestically and then overseas by air on a space-available basis are paid at Parcel Post prices with maximum weight and size limits of 15 pounds and 60 inches in length and girth combined.
The Parcel Airlift Mail deadline is Dec. 1, or Dec. 3, depending on the APO/FPO address, according to Sparks. The mailing option is available for Parcel Post items not exceeding 30 pounds in weight or 60 inches in length and girth combined. It provides air transportation for parcels on a space-available basis.
The deadline for Express Mail Military Service, available at select military post offices, is set at the close of the business day, Dec. 17.
Sparks said he anticipates a busy holiday season, despite declines in patronage at post offices.
This year, we are anticipating, and have already seen, an increase in Hampton in the number of packages coming in, said Sparks. I think its mostly because we have more people buying gifts online. And more people are shipping packages to family and friends, who may not be making that trip to see them this year.
Sparks urges patrons to consider key guidelines in preparing their packages this holiday season. He advises customers: Do not tie strings on the exterior of packages; Do not wrap packages in paper; and do not tape packages with duct tape or masking tape.
Always put a piece of paper inside the package with the address and return address, in case something happens to the outside of the package, said the post master, noting that the exterior of the package should be clean, and contain little or no writing other than the address and return address.
Sparks reiterated, in order to ensure timely delivery of holiday wishes by Dec. 25, cards and packages to military APO/FPO addresses overseas, they should be sent within the next couple of weeks. Mail addressed to military post offices overseas generally require customs forms, and is subject to certain conditions or restrictions regarding content, preparation and handling.
Patrons can find a list of APO/FPO addresses and mailing restrictions by individual APO/FPO ZIP codes at www.usps.com. The web site also contains a list of dos and donts when sending packages, and a Click-N-Ship feature for printing postage labels.
The Postal Service also offers free military care kits, designed specifically for military families sending packages overseas. Each kit includes two America Supports You large Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes, four medium-sized Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes, six Priority Mail labels, one roll of Priority Mail tape and six customs forms with envelopes.
The mailing kits are not available at Postal Service retail outlets, but can be ordered by requesting them at (800) 610-8734.
Sparks acknowledged, however, that individual Priority Mail boxes (small, medium, and large) are available free of charge at local post offices. He added that some of the retail outlets provide customers a product line of greeting cards and gift cards at their retail counters.
To learn more, visit the United States Postal Service web site at www.usps.com.