February 14th 2012 8:36 am
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Meet Cupid's Helpers, Truly Angels on Earth.
The outgoing coordinator for Loveland's valentine re-mailing program shares the history of this romantic endeavor.
By Duane Kaye, Loveland, Colorado
Hopeless romantic. That’s me all right. And who wouldn’t be, with a wife like mine? I guess Jeanette and I truly do belong in the romance capital of the world, Loveland, Colorado. When we moved here 22 years ago, we didn’t know much about this beautiful little town nestled in the mountains, where folks smiled and said hello when you passed them on the street.
I landed a postal worker position and got to know my new neighbors by name. But I had a surprise in store. I was working as a window clerk my first February on the job, and I’d just weighed a stack of letters when I heard laughter coming from the back room. A party? I wondered. On my break I checked it out. There in the back I found a small army of senior citizens. They sat on either side of a long folding table and appeared to be opening and stamping mail. “What’s going on?” I asked.
“We’re valentine volunteers,” one of the men explained. He held up an envelope. It was a valentine card from Seattle going to an address in Wisconsin. “We get cards from all over the world—more than a hundred countries,” the man said. “People send them here so we can hand-stamp them with a valentine message from right here in Sweetheart City.”
A lady beside him held up a pink envelope she’d just stamped. “Wouldn’t you want to get a valentine with our official postmark?” she said. The bright blue stamp included a four-line love poem.
Another lady at the end of the table had a stack of cards she was addressing with a calligraphy pen. “These envelopes arrived damaged,” she said. “So I’m replacing them!”
I stared at the stack of red, pink and white envelopes currently being sorted by a man in red heart suspenders. I’d never seen such an operation. “How many of these do you send out every year?” I asked.
“Over two hundred thousand,” the woman said proudly. “Not bad for only fifty volunteers doing two weeks’ work, huh?”
Not bad? Santa’s elves didn’t work so hard for Christmas!
“Does your special someone deserve a valentine this year?” one of the volunteers asked with a wink.
On Valentine’s Day Jeanette received a big pink envelope in the mail with our special stamp. Funny thing was, so did I! “How did you manage to send this without me seeing it at the post office?” I said.
“I have my ways,” said Jeanette.
I looked forward to the valentine program every year. When I heard the re-mailing coordinator was retiring I jumped at the chance to take the job myself.
“It’s not just fun and romance for two weeks,” he explained. “We hold a contest to pick the design for the official valentine, and the poem that goes on the stamp has to be approved by the Feds. The process begins in November.”
It was a lot of extra work, but I enjoyed every minute. Artists from across the nation submitted designs for the postmark and cachet. One morning as I left for work Jeanette presented me with a piece of paper. It was a computer generated drawing of two swans facing each other. Their necks created a heart. “It’s my entry to the contest,” she said shyly. “Don’t worry, I know you don’t get to pick the winner.”
With so many brilliant entries coming in I was relieved not to have a say in the outcome. The committee chairman came to the office to show me which one they’d picked: Jeanette’s swans!
I thought I was a hopeless romantic before. Now I felt like Cupid’s personal assistant, or like an angel delivering these messages of love. “Make sure this card reaches my fiancée on February fourteenth,” read a note with one 2.3 foot envelope. “I’m asking her to marry me on Valen-tine’s Day. The proposal is inside!”
Rain, sleet or snow...you can believe we delivered that card on Valentine’s Day! If she didn’t say yes, well, the young man can’t hold Loveland Post Office responsible.
Sometimes the folks sending letters became pen pals. Like the woman in Italy who stamped her card for her husband with beautiful Italian stamps. “Your stamps of the Italian countryside are breathtaking,” I wrote to her. “Unfortunately they are not valid in the US.” A few days later the woman wrote me back, enclosing Italian stamps just for me.
Another lady sent a shoebox filled with 50 knitted hearts—one for every volunteer. Eleanor in
Florida sent a brown paper package of flavored coffee, creamers and chocolates.
The whole town in Loveland gets into the romantic spirit. Local restaurants treat the volunteers to free lunch. Jeanette baked us valentine cakes with white drizzled frosting. There’s a community dance, sweetheart night at the library, the crowning of Miss Valentine. Personal messages on oversized hearts decorate the town. The one in front of the post office always reads the same: DUANE LOVES JEANETTE.
This year I plan to retire from the post office. Jeanette and I are going to take a second honeymoon, traveling around the country. But as much as I look forward to spending time with my sweetheart, I’ll miss delivering all those messages of love. I’m already planning to volunteer next year. Once you’ve worked as an angel, it’s hard to stop.
* * * * *
Loveland, Colorado, “Sweetheart City,” started its valentine re-mailing program in 1947. To receive the Loveland valentine cachet, enclose pre-addressed cards affixed with the proper postage in a larger envelope and mail first class to: Postmaster, Valentine Re-mailing, 446 East 29th Street, Loveland, Colorado, 80538. Cards for destinations in Colorado should be in Loveland by February 11. For US destinations outside Colorado, February 7. For international destinations, February 3.
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY WHITLEY!!!
Great story...Happy Valentines day!!
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY PETEY !!! Thanks.
My mommy has heard about Loveland, Colorado! We have a town called "Love" in our province, they also get requests like that. Have a Happy Valentine's Day, Dayzee!
I thought it was a nice thing to share today.
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY to you to.
My Mom's Mom was born in Loveland CO! What a beautiful story to share on Valentine's Day.
Happy Valentine's Day!
That's awesome Anya. And to think I almost didn't enter this today but at the last minute I decided to go ahead and enter it.
I am so glad I did.
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY to you also sweetie.