OTISFIELD — The town's only public mailbox, saved this week from the U.S. Postal Service scrap heap after a local protest and a national outpouring of support, now has a name.
"I named it Pandora," Town Clerk Sharon Matthews said, referring to the woman in Greek mythology who opens a box, letting out all human ills into the world.
Matthews and Administrative Assistant Marianne Izzo-Morin were busy Thursday looking through a pile of letters from people across the country expressing support for townspeople in their fight to keep the mailbox outside the Town Hall on Route 121.
"It's just wonderful," Izzo-Morin said of the outpouring. People sent messages by mail and e-mail. Officials say they intend to respond to each with the good news that "Pandora" is staying. Matthews will post some letters on the bulletin board above the mailbox to say "thank you" to everyone.
"For them to take the time to write, I think it's unbelievable," she said.
One who did was retired mailman Glen Crow of Shreveport, La. "I am so proud of you and Sharon," he wrote to the women. He said he wanted "to encourage you two to try and start a fire in the
hearts of America to preserve the Post Office. ... As American
citizens you have a right to expect mail service."
A Monterey, Calif., community college professor wrote to tell
Otisfield officials that she made photocopies of the news article for her
Critical Thinking class. "My students need role models like you," Jo Van Dam wrote.
Betty Innamorato of White Plains, N.Y., urged officials to keep
fighting. "Going to the public mailbox is a tradition," she wrote.
And Jack Conant of Buena Park, Calif., said, "I sure admire your spark. ... Stand strong in your commitment."
That's what residents did after finding a notice on the mailbox July 13 from the U.S. Postal Service saying the box would be removed in 10 days. That's the only notification the town got that it would lose mail service because of Postal Service cutbacks. The agency is trying to reduce a $7 billion deficit by cutting services in some areas.
The town of 1,750 people has not had a post
office for more than 50 years. The closest post office is about 5
miles away in neighboring Oxford.
In the summer the population doubles — the Seeds of Peace International Camp is here — and officials say many people, including Town Hall
employees, use the box for safety and convenience.
When threatened with the loss, townspeople sprang into action, threatening to chain themselves to the mailbox and then moving the claw of the town's backhoe over it to prevent it from being taken away during the night. Town officials posted the name and phone number of a Postal Service official on the bulletin board near the mailbox and urged people to call to protest the decision. They also contacted state legislators and U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe for help.
The story got local press coverage, then reached The Associated Press and was distributed to newspapers and broadcast media across the country. On Tuesday, Tom Rizzo, district communications coordinator for the
Northern New England District of the United States Postal Service,
issued a three-sentence statement saying the agency had reviewed
the situation and decided to leave the mailbox in place.
Matthews credits the "tenacity of the town" for standing up for what's right.
"If you believe in something, you act on it," Izzo-Morin said.