NALCREST, Fla. (AP) – Welcome to Nalcrest, population 800 and ZIP code 33856, where the nation’s letter carriers come to retire when they’ve set down the bag for the last time.

The tiny town with plenty of mail bonding was created by the postal workers’ union more than 40 years ago for couriers done in not by rain, sleet or snow, but by age.

Its rows of apartments are tidy, with many homes proudly displaying the union’s logo. Pets, including mail carrier-chasing dogs, are forbidden. So are home mailboxes. Residents pick up their mail at the post office in the town square, a hub adorned with a statue commemorating a 19th-century postmaster.

“This is the greatest thing going,” said 79-year-old Joe Giordano, who retired from New York’s Westchester Station after 40 years of delivering mail. “How can you find any fault with a place like this?”

Florida has long been a destination for retirees, and almost 18 percent of the population is 65 or older. The state is also home to several specialized retirement communities. The retired mail carriers are kin to the carnival workers of Gibsonton and the gays and lesbians at Palms of Manasota in Palmetto.

The idea of a retirement community had been discussed for years, and in 1958 union president William C. Doherty sold membership on the idea.

“At the time, old letter carriers were broken down. They were worked until they literally could not work anymore,” said Sean McCormally, assistant editor of the union’s monthly magazine, Postal Record.

The first residents arrived in May 1963, paying monthly rents that ranged from $75 for an efficiency to $95 for a two-bedroom.

“People at that time weren’t making much money in the post office, and Doherty figured if they could retire, sell the homes they had up North and come down here, then they could live comfortably on this inexpensive rent,” said Jerry Kane, Nalcrest’s general manager.

Rents have remained cheap, currently running from $285 to $305.

Nalcrest, about 50 miles south of Orlando, took its name from the union: National Association of Letter Carriers Retirement Education Security Training Foundation.

Demand has remained strong over the years, as couriers seek out Florida’s sunny climate.

“That’s what we like about down here: It’s summer all the time,” said Jack Jewell, 76. He worked for 32 years in Philadelphia before retiring in 1991.

Edie Raymond, a former day care center owner, has run Nalcrest’s post office for three years and is much like a cafeteria cook at a culinary academy. In a mail community, she is non postal. The former Massachusetts resident said her customers let her know they are watching with professional interest.

“In the beginning it was a little tough, because I don’t think they wanted to accept somebody who wasn’t postal,” said Raymond, 71. “Being retired postal workers, they all wanted it done their way but they all had a different idea of how it should be done. In the end, they’ve all come around.”

Nalcrest was supposed to be one of two communities on Lake Weohyakapka where retirees came from a specific vocation. Down the road is Fedhaven, built at the same time with federal employees, including the postal clerks’ union, in mind. Its design is a mirror image of Nalcrest, but the community long ago turned to private ownership and opened its doors to all comers. It is now called Lakeshore Club Villas.

Kane knows why the letter carriers stayed while Fedhaven’s residents didn’t.

“We always deliver.”

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