JUNEAU, Alaska — In Juneau, efforts are under way to save a post office on Douglas Island that's been part of the community since 1887 -- and has been targeted for closure in a wave of postal budget cuts.
The U.S. Postal Service has been drowning in a sea of red ink recently, with email and private services like FedEx cutting into its profit margins. Last year it was announced that 3,700 post offices across the U.S. would be studied for possible closure, including 36 in Alaska.
Alaska's congressional delegation saved much of the state from the proposed cuts in December. Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young managed to get 31 of the Alaska post offices off the study list, citing the crucial nature of postal service to far-flung rural Alaska communities.
Now only five Alaska post offices are on the closure list, all in urban areas near other postal facilities. Two are in Anchorage: the Postal Store in the 5th Avenue Mall, as well as a postal facility on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Another two are on Fairbanks military installations Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base.
There's one more postal facility on the closure study list, however: the one on Southeast Alaska's Douglas Island. Folks on the island are determined to keep it open and on Wednesday, they held a rally which more than 100 people attended -- out of the island's total population of 3,000.
The post office in Douglas resembles one of yesteryear. It's a place for socializing, where everyone is friends with postmaster Lee Kearny. In fact, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Kearny is loved by the community, and with good reason: a few years ago, he saved a life.
Kearny noticed that an elderly resident of the island across Gastineau Channel from the capital, Virginia Post, hadn't shown up to pick up her mail, so he called a couple of friends to check on her. They found that Post had become disabled, and had been lying on the floor of her bathtub for seven hours. Rescuers were called in, and Post was rushed to the hospital.
"What he did, in effect, was save her life", said Douglas resident Pat Peterson.