I began working on bulk mailings in 1977.
- The Northeast Region was new then, and Director Melvin Mast and his wife, Joyce, were preparing to mail newsletters by using a bulk permit.
- My first job in their office was to organize addresses – on typed labels – in alphabetical order.
- On my first day in the office, the addresses were on stacks of paper in various kinds of handwriting.
That is the bulk of what I did as I volunteered several hours – one day a week – for ten years: add new addresses, remove old ones, then retype everything every-so-often when the labels were too messy.
- I did other things as needed, but the addresses were my responsibility.
- When we did early bulk mailings, I sorted newsletters by zip code – in large paper bags. 🙂
- There was always a table full of volunteers labeling the newsletters and bringing them to me.
- Our daughter Deb was of preschool age at the time and usually went with me. I think her first office job was bringing labeled newsletters from the table to my bench of zip-code-organized bags.
As I thought about that today, it reminded me of life and how many times we wish we could see through the fog of life and know the end of the story.
My bulk mailing knowledge was stretched in 1987 when TFC went from typewriter to computer.
- My boss, Joyce, did not like or trust computers.
- Though I was a bit scared, I decided to accept the challenge and went to Ohio, where TFC’s headquarters were then located – to learn the approved database for TFC.
That is when I began working in the office two days a week – one volunteer and the other for pay. (I needed some income to cover the cost of travel as it was a one-hour drive each way.)
- By this time Diane was married, the boys were out of school and working, and Deb was a teenager.
- We resisted for many weeks, but God eventually made it clear to us that this is the path He wanted us to travel.
- My faith and bulk mailing knowledge was again stretched, but I eventually saw through the fog and settled into a routine.
After the region and our mailing list grew, I also began mailing newsletters for our region’s staff – and bulk mailing became a bit overwhelming.
One day a Pitney Bowes representative came to my home/office and explained how nice it would be for me if we used SmartMailer for bulk mailings. 🙂 Though it sounded nice, I tuned her out until she mentioned that I would no longer have to rubber band the bundles of sorted newsletters.
- My hands were sore from just having spent eight hours rubber banding the newsletters that twenty-plus volunteers had labled for me the day before.
She had my attention and later that day I explained this fabulous opportunity to Cerwin and our advisors, and because our region had funds available at the time, we purchased the software.
- It was one of the best decisions we ever made for our office.
Again I was muddling through a fog of new things. But eventually the sun came out and things became routine again – until TFC, the Post Office, or Pitney Bowes updated or changed things. 🙂
Sometime – about 2005/2006 – after a series of brainstorming meetings – a TFC leadership team concluded that it would be wise to erase the regional lines and have ministry directors instead of regional directors.
Cerwin became Director of Chapel Construction and I became Director of Staff Communications.
- This is when I was grateful for the SmartMailer software, because I would now be doing the layout and design, printing, and bulk mailing for staff newsletters; and mailing the prayer calendar and individual Highway News.
Late last summer I began receiving information that the Post Office was making a major change to bulk mailings, as all reports would have to be submitted online by January 26, 2014.
- I tried to follow the detailed instructions from Pitney Bowes and the Post Office and made partial progress, but my submission never worked, so I let it go for awhile, mostly because we spent so much time traveling in October, November, and December.
This week – after life began to return to normal, and my partial retirement (I no longer help with the layout and design of ministry newsletters) seems to be in effect – I began working on the online submission with the goal of having it completed by the end of this week.
- Finally, my test mailing went through on Tuesday afternoon, and I received an email from the Post Office that the submission was successful!
- On Wednesday I prepared the Highway News labels and submitted the report to the Post Office. Yes! It looked good.
On Thursday our friends John, Arlene, Josh, and Janessa came to help label the Highway News, and by 11:30 we had the 16 mailing bags loaded and ready for the Post Office.
- Cerwin put the bags on the dock and the postmaster took my reports – pleased that everything worked for me.
- A few minutes later – after we were almost through Lititz – the postmaster called to say the submitted report did not work on his end. 🙁
- We had to go back to the post office.
He took me to his computer where we tried to figure out what was wrong. We found nothing, so the bags had to be loaded back into our RAV4. He gave me a submitted cover report from someone else whose submitted reports were working.
- When I got home I double-checked the fields in my SmartMailer and found nothing wrong, so I called the lady whose reports worked. However, we could not generate the report I needed, and concluded that it was because I had to date it for Friday.
- Maybe the report would show up Friday morning.
- It didn’t!
I called PostalOne this morning – the part of the Post Office responsible for these submitted reports. She couldn’t find anything wrong, and said since I was using full-service, I would not have any reports to print. Everything was submitted online. (The other lady was not using full-service.)
- Cerwin and I went back to the Post Office, and Mike and I went over my newly submitted report to see if there was something we missed.
- We found something that wasn’t checked – which eliminated one error report. But there were two, and he still could not submit my report. 🙁
Our decision: he would research the error code with a state post office and I would call Pitney Bowes.
- I prayed, asking God to let me get through to Pitney Bowes and get a rep who understood what was going on. (I had talked to someone earlier in the process.)
- I got right through, and on the other end of the line was a wonderful guy named Steve. When I told him the error report at the Post Office, he said, “I know your problem.”
The problem was a glitch in Pitney Bowes software. He fixed it remotely and asked me to run the mailing list through the software and submit it again.
I called Mike at the post office – and it worked!
- I do wish I had known about the glitch before.
- It sure would have made this process a lot easier.
- However, life is not always easy.
But the sunset did look especially pretty tonight.