Considering that their uniforms include that shorts-and-black-knee-high combo, most of us don’t expect our mail carriers to be style influencers or iconoclasts. If your regular carrier showed up in anything out of the ordinary, you’d notice. That’s why the carriers in Boise, Idaho, this week are bound to turn heads when they take to their routes in bright blue hair.
This isn’t an act of rebellion or protest against the fact that those Amazon orders are getting so heavy lately. These postal workers are doing their part to raise awareness for this Saturday’s 26th annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive, in which 212,000 letter carriers collect food people place in bags on their mailboxes to deliver to their local food banks.
“I love it when people ask, ‘Why is your hair blue?’ It gives me the perfect opportunity to explain it,” letter carrier Candace Lincoln, who coordinates the drive for her branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) union, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Postmaster Dan Corral had promised the carriers that if they met their goal of collecting 175,000 pounds of food in 2016, he’d dye his hair blue before the 2017 drive. When he did, Lincoln and others decided to follow suit. Though last year, Lincoln went for a wig, on Monday night, she joined a handful of her colleagues at the Beardsmith for some complimentary temporary dye jobs.
“The post office is blue, so we figured blue would be a good color,” Lincoln explains. She hopes other carriers go blue this week too, as they drop off bags for the drive. But if they don’t, they can just wear the shirts or pins. After wearing the same uniform all year “it’s kind of nice to wear something different,” she admits.
Considering how much physical labor the carriers do every day, it’s kind of surprising they’re so enthusiastic about collecting something extra on the second Saturday of May every year.
“You’d think, ‘Oh no, that’s more stuff to carry,’ but it gives us a great feeling to know that people are supporting us out there,” says John Paige, president of the Idaho state association of the NALC. “We have the hungry among us in our community. People are glad to do it.. .”
Not that it’s a piece of cake, mind you. “By the end of the day, your back is hurting; it’s an exhausting day, but it is absolutely worth it,” Lincoln says. “It almost brings a tear to my eyes to see how much people care, and how much people want to help. We’ve all been, or will be, or know somebody that has fallen in the cracks. I know I have, and that’s why I have so much passion for it.”
The timing of Stamp Out Hunger, just before summer, makes it essential for many food banks that get so much attention at the end of the year. “By the time our drive comes around on Mother’s Day weekend, the food pantries have run out again,” Paige says.
Last year, the drive collected an estimated 75 million pounds of food nationwide, according to Christina Vela Davidson, national food drive coordinator for NALC. In the previous 25 years, they’ve totaled 1.6 billion pounds. But if other letter carriers want to follow Boise’s example and make the drive even bigger (and bluer), she would certainly welcome that commitment.
“I think nationally carriers should dye their hair, or we could get blue hair clips or something,” Lincoln says. “Just so people go, ‘Why does my carrier have blue hair?’ To get everyone’s attention.”
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