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Bethlehem, Ky. post office to close

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By Christopher Brooke, Landmark News Service

The most famous U.S. Post Office in Henry County will close, but at least one person is holding out for a miracle.

Many holiday revelers from near and far have sought out the special Christmas postmark from Bethlehem, Ky., since it started in the 1940s. That’s only one of the ways the community post office is special, said Charles Spencer Wood, who serves as postmaster relief there.

Moving out of the post office will happen by the end of the month, Postmaster John Donnelly confirms. Because nearby Marsh Corner is a village post office where customers can buy stamps and send flat rate mail, officials will install the bank of P.O. boxes and the mail collection boxes there soon.

For money orders and non-flat-rate package shipping, customers will have to go to other post offices in Henry County.

This situation differs from the last talk of closing when the postal service proposed a significant restructuring in order to save money.

This time, the lease for the rural post office will not be renewed. Wood doubts the USPS would invest in building a new office or renovating another space for another post office in Bethlehem.

“We have to move things out and pack things up, just in case that happens,” Wood said. “It might be one of those situations where this might be the end for real, but miracles do happen, especially in Bethlehem.”

Wood has talked to state Rep. Tom Riner about the situation and put up a sign about the post office closing in his other place of work, Norm’s Grocery in Eminence, in hopes Bethlehem may be spared again.

Not only can customers ask for the special postmark, they can see the manger scene from the post office.

“I’m one of those people — I’d love to see the post office stay open,” Wood said. “Not only do I get to do a job that I love, I get to do it for people that I love. When you get a job at a place like that it’s not like any other post office. It’s got a legacy. It’s got a tradition.”

The Bethlehem name carries special meaning for many people, he said. Wood believes it’s one of the landmarks of Henry County is known for.

Many people in the community still depend on the mail in order to get their prescription medicines, Wood noted. The post office across the road provides much more convenience than the one four or so miles away by vehicle.

This isn’t any one person’s fault, he stressed. There’s no villain here, but everyone stands to lose.

 “This is a service that we’ve got out here in the middle of nowhere,” Wood said. “I can still walk in here and say here’s my 49 cents. Send my letter out.”

With the postal service creating new services to benefit customers, like online Click and Ship parcel shipping from home, Wood said USPS is on better footing today. He looked forward to promoting those new offerings, as well as concentrating on Bethlehem’s Christmas connection, working on the retail products, implementing a competitively priced wrapping station and providing great customer service. Wood saw potential to grow the local post office’s business.

“I still get a lot of mail and parcels through here,” Wood said. “There’s a lot of people out there who still need a post office. If it closes down nobody wins — the post office doesn’t win, the people that own the building don’t win, the customers don’t win. If it goes away, it’s gone.”

As far as Donnelly is concerned, the move will not end the special Bethlehem Christmas postmark. There are still many volunteers who want to help with that, too.

“This year, I’m sure we’ll still do the Bethlehem stamp,” he said. “We’ll do it out of Pleasureville. We’ll probably keep doing it as long as I’m here or until somebody tells me to stop.”