Although they don’t deliver gifts from a sleigh drawn by eight tiny reindeer, mail carriers in Fairbury have worked hard to make sure presents are delivered with care this holiday season. With only a few days left until Christmas, Fairbury Officer-In-Charge Kayla Swallows said her carriers are putting in the extra time and effort to make sure packages are delivered accurately and on-time.
    “We move full speed ahead on delivering the package volume that we’re receiving this time of year,” she said. “Each day, our carriers go out with a positive mindset and try to put the customers first. We have a really good batch of carriers here and they definitely care about their customers, their efforts help make the holiday season great.”
    The U.S. Postal Service estimates it will deliver more than 15 billion pieces of mail this holiday season. In the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the Postal Service also expects to deliver 850 million packages, which is more than a 10 percent increase compared to the same period last year.
    “The Fairbury Post Office is well prepared to meet our customers’ needs during the holiday season, especially as demand for package deliveries continues to grow,” said Swallows. “We take great pride in our holiday readiness and preparation, and in our ability to offer reliable, predictable and affordable service throughout the community.”
    The week leading up to Christmas is the post office’s busiest time of the year. During this time, local carriers will start their day at about 6:45 a.m. Swallows said when they actually get out to the street depends on how much mail is going to the mailboxes on their route, but mail carriers are typically on their routes between 8 and 9 a.m. and back by 5 p.m.
    During the week leading up to Christmas, nearly 3 billion pieces of First Class Mail, including greeting cards, are expected to be processed and delivered nationally. The USPS expects to deliver nearly 200 million packages during the two weeks prior to Christmas.
    “A lot of the post offices in northern Illinois have more package volume than we do,” said Swallows. “It’s not uncommon to see those mail carriers working quite a bit later than normal. However, even though we saw an increase, our carriers haven’t had to be out too late.
    “Our carriers are great workers and at this time of year, we put extra effort into keeping up that positive attitude. We’ve been doing our best to get everyone’s packages out on time and so far it’s gone pretty smoothly. So, kudos to our carriers, if it wasn’t for them I don’t know what we would do.”
    One of the most popular ways to send gifts this season is the flat rate shipping boxes. Swallows said the boxes offer great savings, particularly for people who are mailing gifts to the east or west coasts.
    “When you mail a regular package, your shipping cost is calculated by distance and weight,” Swallows said. “However, in the flat rate box, whatever can fit in that box can be shipped without those charges, customers just pay one flat rate. So, for people who are shipping something long distance, it’s definitely beneficial and can save them quite a bit of money.”
    Although the mail volume increased, Swallows said no seasonal employment was required. The Fairbury post office has three city routes and two rural routes and those carriers have their substitutes.
    “Every once in a while we’ll bring in the subs to help out,” Swallows said. “Especially on Mondays, those are our heaviest volume days. We bring in subs to give some relief to our carriers. We have seen a big increase in letters lately, but we haven’t had to hire anyone additional.”
    Swallows estimates that mail volumes will start returning to their regular margins during the second week in January. Right after Christmas, she expects to see a lot of returns.
    “People are mailing stuff back that they didn’t like, or didn’t fit or whatever the case may be. So, we’ll see a lot of returns over the weeks following Christmas and then it will start slowing down for us,” she said.
    “Probably the most endearing part of our job during the holidays is when little kids come and ask the mail carriers if they are helping Santa. They get so excited because kids love Santa at Christmas time, but they’ll sometimes come in and ask, ‘do you work with Santa? Do you know him?’ and we try to play along.”