Postal Service fights with `Rice for Peace’ packages | PostIndependent.com
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Postal Service fights with `Rice for Peace’ packages

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Rice is nice, but not when it’s exploding all over the post office.

A nationwide mail campaign involving rice and the possible war in Iraq is causing headaches for the U.S. Postal Service – and the U.S.P.S. mail-handling facility in West Glenwood is no exception.

The “Rice for Peace” campaign was initiated in Boulder by Stirling Cousins at the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.



She sent e-mails to more than 200 peace organizations around the country suggesting that anti-war protesters mail a half cup of uncooked rice to President Bush at the White House, with a note asking him to send food to the Iraqis instead of attacking them.

The campaign is an effort to make a personal, albeit symbolic, statement about war.



But some of the envelopes filled with rice aren’t making it to the White House.

Dion Helmick, supervisor at the postal service facility in West Glenwood, said rice-filled envelopes have been coming into the facility for a few weeks now.

“When the rice is sent in padded envelopes, it’s fine,” he said. “We process padded envelopes by hand. They don’t run through our bar code or automated canceling machines. But when the rice is sent in a regular envelope, we often can’t cull it out before it gets into our machinery.”

When that happens, envelopes containing rice can get caught in the machines, ripping them open, tearing them apart, and spewing rice around the facility. The rice can also get ground up in the machinery, Helmick said, clogging the machines.

So far, there hasn’t been any permanent damage to postal service machinery, but dealing with rice on this scale can be like the aftermath of a bride and groom leaving their wedding.

“Last Monday was a particularly bad night,” Helmick said. “There was rice everywhere.”

Helmick said the postal service saves as much of the mangled rice and the envelopes it comes in, and sends damaged envelopes encased in plastic on to the White House whenever possible.

Picking up on Cousins’ campaign, Lauren Martin, pastor at Glenwood Mennonite Church, wrote a letter to the editor about the “Rice for Peace” campaign, instructing readers to send rice in a regular envelope. The letter appeared in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on Thursday.

“When I saw that letter, I thought, `Uh-oh,'” Helmick said. “It’s time to gear up.”

When he wrote the letter, Martin didn’t know about the problem of using regular envelopes. When he found out, he rushed to correct the problem, visiting with Steve Cross, acting supervisor of the Glenwood Springs Post Office, on Friday.

“I went to the post office and apologized,” Martin said, displaying the proper padded envelope that should be used when participating in the campaign.

Both Cross and Helmick said Martin is on the right track now.

“Padded envelopes are perfect for this,” Cross said. “We hand cancel them and they don’t get processed in our automated machinery.”

The “Rice for Peace” campaign is based on a similar anti-war mailing that took place in the 1950s, when President Eisenhower was contemplating using nuclear weapons on two Chinese islands, Quemoy and Matsu.

Citizens sent thousands of little bags of grain to the White House, urging the president to feed the Chinese and not attack them.

Although there are still questions regarding the campaign’s ultimate influence on not using nuclear weapons against China, the “Rice for Peace” campaign is giving people an avenue to voice their opinions – with a padded envelope, of course.

For more information on the “Rice for Peace” campaign, contact Lauren Martin at 945-5245.


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