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Postal Van Rolls Services to Senior Centers : Mail: The new program licks the problem of access for some customers in West Covina and Covina.


SAN GABRIEL VALLEY — It's a post office on wheels. And it's gaining a stamp of approval from customers in West Covina and Covina.

The traveling U.S. Postal Service van pays one-hour visits Monday through Friday to senior citizen complexes in both cities.

But instead of delivering the mail, the bulky white vehicle converts into a post office and offers services to the elderly so they will not have to drive or find a ride to the post office.

Wilhelmina Ward, a resident of a complex on Badillo Street, considered the new service a blessing.

"It's hard for me," said the 72-year-old widow. "Because I don't drive, I had to depend on someone (for a ride).

"Now it's just great. . . . I just wait until Tuesday," she said with a smile.

The service is efficient and friendly too.

"They're all nice people," said Hazel Farr, 70. "You don't really have to wait in line."

Postal officials say the two-week-old service is unique in the San Gabriel Valley, although similar operations started a few years ago in Los Angeles and south Orange County.

"It's a first for local retirement homes . . . and it's an effort to provide the type of service that normally would not be available," said Art Martinez, manager of the Postal Service's Santa Ana district.

The district covers Monterey Park, Alhambra, Glendora, Pomona, Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario, Norco, Corona and all of Orange County except Buena Park, Cypress, Seal Beach, Stanton and Los Alamitos.

West Covina Postmaster Mark Granger said his manager of customer services, Mario Cruz, came up with the idea last year but didn't have any personnel to spare for the van. The operation costs $125 a week and requires one postal clerk, who also drives.

"We were thinking of ways of going out not basically to make money, but to serve the public," Cruz said. "There's four retirement homes in the city of West Covina. I decided to go out to them and serve them."

The vehicle contains everything necessary to run a post office, including a computer, a money order machine, stamps, envelopes and boxes for packages.

Cruz said the postal clerk has a mobile phone, and "all he's got to do is call us" if he runs out of supplies.

To make the van more attractive, postal workers placed next to the order window a bulletin board featuring Elvis Presley, Grace Kelly and Easter stamps. Polaroid pictures of customers are also pinned up.

"It's good publicity for us, and it makes the people feel good about themselves," Granger said.

Since the program's inception two weeks ago, more than a thousand senior citizens have been served.

"I think it's just wonderful, and especially for a place like this, where a lot of the residents don't have the transportation to mail their letters or buy their stamps," said Emily Radjenovich, 82.

Radjenovich was one of about 20 customers who visited the van while it was parked on Badillo Street.

The van's daily rounds include five senior citizen complexes in West Covina and one in Covina: Cortez Senior Center, Bridgecreek Retirement, Friendship Village, Villa del Vista Apartments, Vintage Park Apartments, and Village Green Senior Apartments.

After going to those homes, the van heads to the Kmart parking lot at 730 S. Orange Ave. From 12:30 to 5 p.m. it assists the main branch near West Covina Fashion Plaza, where renovations have made access difficult for post office customers.

If the service catches on and other San Gabriel Valley cities request it, postal officials say they will consider ordering more vans.

Said Martinez: "I think that two vans provide a reasonable (level) of service. . . . (But) we'll continue to make these vans available as needs arise."

Postal Van Schedule

Here is the schedule of stops for the U.S. postal van:

Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 11 a.m. to noon: 2501 Cortez St., Cortez Senior Center.

Monday, 10 to 11 a.m.: 3601 E. Holt Ave., Bridgecreek Retirement.

Tuesday, 10 to 11 a.m.: 1800 Badillo St., Friendship Village.

Wednesday, 10 to 11 a.m.: 154 Grand Ave., Villa del Vista Apartments for Senior Citizens.

Thursday, 10 to 11 a.m.: 1805 E. Cortez St., Vintage Park Apartments for Seniors.

Friday, 10 to 11 a.m.: 152 E. Covina Blvd., Village Green Senior Apartments.

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