At long last, our commemorative posters are ready to be mailed! About 15 or so people are planning to rendezvous tomorrow at 11am at Mount Rainier's Education Center to roll posters and stuff them into poster tubes.
If any of you find yourself in the position of organizing such a mass mailing, you have my sympathies! Here are some of the challenges:
- Creating an organized mailing list. We have volunteers who've participated this past year directly through Mount Rainier National Park, and others who've contributed through the Student Conservation Association, Washington Trails Association, National Parks Conservation Association, and Washington's National Park Fund. Each has its own list of names in its own format.
- Eliminating duplicates. How do you find duplicates in a list combined from multiple sources, when one list might say "Mr. and Mrs. John Doe, 1141 Main St. SE" and the next list says "Jane and John Doe, 1141 S.E. Main Street"?
- Tracking down missing addresses. For many of our volunteers, we had phone numbers or e-mail addresses, but not mailing addresses. These had to be contacted individually to get the necessary information.
- Confirming and correcting addresses. Many of our records are out of date--especially those for volunteers who've worked for us for many years, or who are transitory because of enrollment in school, seasonal jobs, or retirement.
- What to do about groups? Many people came to Mount Rainier as part of organized groups: employee groups at REI and Starbucks, Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops, classes at The Evergreen State College, groups from Audubon Expeditions Institute and the Tacoma Urban League, just to name a few. We usually have contact information for only the group leader. For each of these groups, we had three options: send a batch of posters to the group leader for distribution; have the group send me a list of names and addresses so we could mail the posters directly; or just send a poster to put up in the offices of the sponsoring organization. We have some of all three options on our mailing list.
- Where to get mailing tubes? Not counting posters we can deliver by hand, we have about 1400 addresses on our list! That's a big order of poster tubes, and you can't just go down to the local office supply store and pick up that many tubes. After considering multiple options, we went with a company based in Missouri that has a contract with the Government Services Administration and had 18"x2" poster tubes on sale for 59 cents each. A darn good price.
- How do you ship that many poster tubes? We needed to receive them by today, of course. That wasn't a problem for the company we bought the tubes from, but then they called us back and said that, due to the large order, they needed to be delivered someplace with a loading dock. That meant Longmire rather than the Education Center. But then they had trouble arranging for someone to actually deliver the tubes to Longmire... so in the end, we were rescued by our own warehouse manager, David Gunderson, who picked them all up in Kent when he did his weekly town run yesterday. The up side to all of this is that we got a large break on the shipping costs, and they even threw in a 2 cents apiece discount for our bulk order!
- How on Earth do you mail 1400 poster tubes? Our little post office here in Ashford has never done such a thing before... and if you've never done bulk mailing, you should check out the regulations on the USPS website and see if you can interpret them! I've never seen more undefined acronyms and confusing cross-references. With the help of our sharp mailing expert here in the park, Mika Moore, we finally figured out that we needed to apply for a bulk mailing permit, get mailing bags from the post office in Puyallup, and sort everything by zip code. But meanwhile, I called the brand new PostNet business in Eatonville, and they offered to do the bulk mail for us, using their own permit for a fee, which was cheaper than buying our own anyway. They even printed labels for us. (We'll still need to sort by zip code.)
- How do you write a thank you letter for a coalition of six different partners (NPS, SCA, WTA, NPCA, WNPF, and The Mountaineers)? At first, we were going to have separate letters for each mailing list... but it would have been a real headache to try to figure out which letter went with which poster, and besides, many of you participated multiple times and with multiple groups. So in the end, we finally agreed on a single letter, signed by everyone. Then the challenge was to compile signatures from everyone...
Recruiting and organizing the volunteers to actually do the poster stuffing is the easy part!
Now, we have a huge job, but lots of people coming to help; I don't know how long the project will take, but we may finish early. Here's a thought for afterward:
The road to Paradise will not open until at least Sunday... so we're offering our free guided snowshoe walks at Longmire instead on Saturday. They'll be at 12:30 and 2:30 at least, and possibly more often. And, the weather forecast looks good, so consider coming prepared to play in the snow after the rolling, stuffing, and labeling is finished! We have about 6 feet of snow on the ground at Longmire right now.
See you all tomorrow!