This year, postal workers and Assistance League of San Pedro-South Bay volunteers like Gayle Merrick will soon be handling more vote-by-mail ballots. As the election nears, Merrick wants to make sure every vote she comes across counts.
“I feel very strongly that we need to be here for the community to take in the ballots. To see that they are properly date stamped and sent on to their proper location,” Merrick said.
For the last six months during the pandemic, the nation’s only all-volunteer post office remained closed. It would be the first time in 20 years, that Merrick would not able to volunteer behind the counter.
As the pandemic continues and the election nears, Merrick knew the post office had to reopen to help support the nonprofit’s programs, and the United States Postal Service that might be processing more vote-by-mail ballots than previous elections.
When the time came to re-open the doors, the nonprofit found the post office short-staffed.
“People have taken leave of absence and three people have quit. So, therefore we are down to 12 people,” Merrick said.
Most of the volunteers at the Assistance League of San Pedro – South Bay Post office are seniors like Merrick who have been volunteering their time for years. Currently, the organization is five volunteers short from operating a regular nine to five schedule.
As long as they have some volunteers, Merrick is determined to keep this location open.
A portion of each stamp or postage sold goes back to the organization’s programs that help low-income families in the area.
Ginger Webster, the president of Assistance League of San Pedro-South Bay, shared that without the help of volunteers, the organization would continue losing out on funding for their low-cost dental, eyewear, clothing, and other programs for those in need.
“These people are really dedicated because a lot of people aren’t coming back. You know, I cannot even imagine. You know, you cannot even walk to a store if you do not have a mask on which is good. But, you know, these ladies just give of their time,” Webster said.
That is why Merrick is not letting this pandemic stop her from doing what she does best this election season.
“I feel like I’m a part of the community when I come here. I’m making the last part of my life worthwhile with something fulfilling to do,” Merrick said.
Merrick and the other volunteers might be working behind the counter, selling stamps and processing postage orders in limited hours, but come election day, they’ll be more than ready to make sure each vote-by-mail ballot coming through here gets to its final destination.