Editor's note: See the clarification posted below the text of this article.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Postal Service announced plans to stop Saturday mail delivery by August. The announcement stirred quite a national debate about the value of Saturday mail deliveries.
In response, a Jefferson City woman and her family have launched a national campaign to remind people of the experience of receiving a personal correspondence in the mail.
Donna Charton Smith and her sister Heidi in Arkansas have created the campaign, called "Because we love snail mail."
The idea is not complicated.
They ask that people just spend 47 cents and use the postal service this Saturday to mail a letter.
The campaign has gotten national media attention and has gathered support on Facebook.
The sisters say the act of sending "snail mail" makes the sender feel good, makes the receiver feel good and uses the Post Office on Saturday.
"It's been years, literally, since I personally sent a letter to someone," Donna said. "The last personal letters I got was years ago from my son in the Navy. I treasure them."
Donna's mom, who will turn 89 in March, communicates most of the time via mail.
"She'll show me those letters," Donna said. "Mom was distraught thinking how she might get fewer things with no Saturday mail delivery. I personally won't miss it, but it meant something to mom. She's not computer literate.
"So I thought let's see if we can do this. Take a day for those who never do traditional mail to remember what it's like."
Donna said her sister Heidi does "snail mail" quite often and is part of a group of more than 100 who share addresses and mail correspondence to each other.
"We knew we couldn't affect the postal budget in a big way, but it would be cool if people would send one 47-cent letter on Saturday," Donna said. "It doesn't happen that often. We've forgotten what it's like. I used to have lots of address books and now all my addresses are on my phone."
With the decision to cease Saturday deliveries, postal officials have said that would mean no street or letter delivery. Package delivery will still take place and local post offices open on Saturday will still be open to mail packages, buy stamps, etc.
Mail deposited in blue collection boxes will not be picked up on Saturdays.
The Postal Service is still working with unions to determine the impact on employees, but postal officials did say full-time delivery drivers would get five work days and part-time delivery drivers would continue on fluctuating schedules.
For businesses such as the News Tribune, they are looking at alternative ways to deliver their product to customers once the change takes effect.
News Tribune General Manager Terri Leifeste said, "Since a price increase last September, we have seen a small decrease in mail subscribers, but I do think the reduction of an additional delivery day will create more decreases. We hope that with this change, our readers will begin coming to our other methods of delivery such as on our website and using an app for your iPad and iPhone, which will be available for all our papers later this year."
Added Doug Crews, executive director of the Missouri Press Association, "Should Saturday mail delivery go away, we'll have newspapers that are entered into the mail stream on Fridays that won't reach home subscribers until Monday. Unless, of course, there's a Monday holiday, and then Friday's edition won't reach subscribers until Tuesday or later.
"Monday holidays will result in delaying the delivery of all mail, not just newspapers, across the U.S. I believe the elimination of Saturday mail delivery will force some newspapers out of the mail stream as they turn to alternative delivery methods," Crews said. "Newspapers in many communities are among the biggest customers of the local post office."
He added, "I'm concerned that businesses, such as newspapers, that depend on the post office to deliver invoices to customers and that depend on the post office to deliver checks and payments for their business services, will see a slowdown in their businesses' cash flow."
Meanwhile, Smith said she's bought cards and stamps this week and getting excited about dropping them all on Saturday.
"We don't have any expectation of saving Saturday delivery with this," she said. "Our point is to spend 47 cents and send somebody a personal note. It takes three to four days instead of three to four seconds. I'm probably the reason the post office is dying because I do so much, including paying my bills, on the Internet. Sometimes, you just need a deadline to make you do something."
Clarification: On Jan. 27, 2013, the price of a U.S. Postal Service stamp to mail a first-class letter increased to 46 cents. The quote referencing the cost as 47 cents is in error.