RUDOLPH, Ohio (AP) — The most famous postmark of all has been saved, thanks to volunteers in the northwest Ohio village of Rudolph.
Thousands of letters flood the village post office every December so that they can be stamped with a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer postmark. But the tradition was in danger of ending when the post office staff was cut down to one, and the work became too much to handle.
"I struggled with it for a little bit, but then I just realized no matter what I wanted, it couldn't be done by me alone," said Charlotte Lamb, who's in charge of the tiny post office.
When word spread, pleadings from local politicians and townsfolk persuaded the U.S. Postal Service to allow volunteers to stamp the special Reindeer Station postmark on the 80,000 letters and cards that come in from across the country.
Close to 75 people, including a few retired postal workers, have signed up to work daily shifts.
"I'm retired, and I always thought this was a great service," said Mace Brumbaugh, who brought her own bag of Christmas cards to mail. "That's why we're here, to help one another."
Some people drive for hours with bundles of mail to get the postmark. But most out-of-towners send their cards, letters and packages to Rudolph by mail.
No one seems to remember when the tradition started. The post office got permission in the early 1990s to add a drawing of the famous reindeer to its postal cancellation during the month of December.
Since then, they've tinkered with the design to make each year unique.
The post office doesn't see much traffic in all the other months, and with the postal service facing huge financial losses, the staff was cut from two to one in October.
Lamb knew giving up the holiday postmark would be tough, especially after telling one customer. "When I told him we're not doing it this year, his mouth about hit the floor," she said. "I thought, 'Man, I'm going to be doing this all month long.'"
Officials in Liberty Township, where the post office is located, asked a local state lawmaker for help.
"That is our trademark," said Rod Lucas, the township's fiscal officer. "People send packages from all over the country."
The reindeer stamp generates about $8,000 to $10,000 in revenue for the post office. Without that money, it might not survive, said state Rep. Randy Gardner, who reached out to the postal service, which allowed the volunteers to take over the work.
"So Rudolph was saved," Gardner said.