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Postal Service hosting free winter holiday essay contest

By Staff | Oct 26, 2010

The United States Postal Service is hosting a free winter holiday essay contest for Lee County students who are 9 to 12 years old.
Debra Mitchell, customer relations for the United States Postal Service, said the post office has always had a good turnout from Lee County students when it has held the essay contest in the past. The post office introduced the contest to students because Mitchell felt that there was not enough emphasis on hand written letters anymore.
“If they write them (essays), they are doing more thinking,” community volunteer Jody Van Cooney said.
Van Cooney, who was a former teacher for 15 years, took on the task of reading all of the essay submissions when the post office began the program to help engage the students in writing more compositions and texting less on their cell phones.
So far the Postal Service has hosted three essay contests. The last one, which attracted more than 300 entries, focused on pets due to Pet Adoption Month.
“A friend came over and we made selections for the finalists,” Van Cooney said. Once the winners were chosen, they posted the two finalists on the wall at the Lee County Animal Shelter for everyone to vote on their favorite essay.
Van Cooney explained that they work with and through the Lee County School System to help get the word out about the contest. The post office was able to reach out to many of the teachers during the last contest, which inspired them to make the contest a classroom assignment. Students from private schools and those who are home-schooled also participated in the summer contest.
The winter essay contest, “What does the winter holiday mean to me here in Southwest Florida” has a submission deadline of Nov. 19. The contest is broken down into two age groups — students who are 6 to 8 years old need to submit a 200-word essay and those who are 9 to12 years old are required to submit a 500-word essay.
The Postal Service is hoping to receive entrees from Lee County public schools, private schools, charter schools and home-schooled students.
Each entry must have the child’s name, age, phone number, teacher’s name, school name and school phone number listed on the back. Handwritten essay entries are also preferred when submitted.
“I prefer the handwritten entries because that way I know the child has done the writing. I would prefer to get one with poor spelling and grammar than a perfectly composed one that the kids did not do.” Van Cooney said. “We really want it to be the child’s entry.”
Mitchell said students can turn in both a handwritten copy of their essay and a computer generated one, so if organizers have any questions they can refer to the typed version of the essay.
“Handwritten essays go to the top of the list when we start looking at the finalist,” she said.
The United States Postal Service Consumer Advisory Council will select finalists from the two age categories and post them at the Cape Coral Central Post Office, 1030 S.E. 9th Ave., on Nov. 27 to provide everyone with the chance to vote on one.
Entries can be sent to Customers Relations USPS, 79 Mid-Cape Terrace, Cape Coral, FL, 33991.
The free “Tis the Snowman Season” event on Nov. 27 will feature the essay contest finalists for a community vote on the best one. Other activities include a writing station for those who want to write a special letter to Santa, family photographs, coconuts for Santa, face tattoos and guessing the amount of candies in a jar. Those who attend will also have the opportunity to learn how to take used stamps off envelopes for stamp collecting and how to mail packages from home using the computer.
For $1, children can also color a holiday card and write a message for someone special.
“This is another way we try to reach out to the community,” Mitchell said. “This is a family event.”
Van Cooney said as soon as they tally up the votes for the essay contest they will make an announcement of the winner, hand out trophies and take pictures.
For more information, call Mitchell at 239-573-9638.