Postal Service effort brings gifts to St. Michael

Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The U.S. Postal Service organized a drive to bring Christmas presents to the Norton Sound village of St. Michael, where a post office fire 10 days ago destroyed gifts for dozens of families.

''A lot of people had their Christmas presents and COD (packages) destroyed, including our postmaster, who lost presents for her kids,'' Postal Service spokeswoman Kathy Phillips said in Anchorage.

Postal workers and their families and friends in Alaska are contributing to the the Christmas St. Michael's Special Delivery campaign by sending clothing, food baskets, electronic gear and lots of toys and games, the agency said.

But workers in Washington, D.C., also have bought, wrapped and mailed gifts to St. Michael.

''Saturday night we got 1,900 pounds of express mail parcels for St. Michael from the Washington, D.C., headquarters,'' Phillips said.

In addition, residents of an assisted-living home in California -- among them the mother of an Alaska postal worker -- also sent gifts, Phillips said.

Postal officials were moving the village's postal operations to the National Guard Armory and were planning to distribute the gifts Christmas Eve.

The St. Michael post office and the Alaska Commercial Co. store, both in the same building, were destroyed in a blaze that started in a storage area and spread quickly.

No one was hurt, but the fire cost roughly $1 million in property and merchandise, according to the state fire marshal's office. The cause remains undetermined.

At the time, the post office held the gifts of at least 50 families in the village of about 400 people, Phillips said.

The A.C. store was the largest on the island of St. Michael. The Taciq Native Store in St. Michael and two other stores in Stebbins, a village 11 miles away by road, have been trying to take up the slack. But St. Michael is running low on some items.

Virginia Washington, the village administrator, said late last week that the Salvation Army had sent some clothing to St. Michael and that there were plans to set up a temporary A.C. store in the Bingo Hall.

But food and baby products were short, she said. Washington mentioned rice, macaroni, sugar, Tang and cereal.

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