Postmark makes Valentine's card to your loved one special

O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

In Michigan. The city that shares its name with the famous Shakespearean character is one of several across the country offering customized postmarks for sweethearts.

Seventeen cities take part in the postmark cancelation program, including romantically named cities such as Bliss, Aromas, Beauty and Loveland. To have cards and letters re-mailed with the special postmark, Valentines must be stamped and addressed and put into a larger stamped envelope, which is mailed to one of the sweetheart cities.

The cards are then taken out of the larger envelope and specially stamped.

Mabel Muncy, postmaster of the Lovely, Ky. post office, spends about an hour a day hand-stamping each card.

"I always add my own little bling to it, like little hearts," she said.

Muncy lets the envelopes dry on a special "Valentine" table and puts them in glassine envelopes so the stamp doesn't smear.

"That's what we're here for, to give them what they want," said Muncy, who has been working at the post office since 1992. "I know how I would feel if I was a collector. They take pride in this and are really serious. If they are taking the time to mail it, then I should be more obliged to take the time to make sure it's all clean."

The Lovely post office has offered a special postmark for Valentine's Day since 2001 and received 1,072 requests that year. Throughout the year, Muncy's office does cancelations for weddings and other special occasions. One year, she received 228 wedding invitations from Elkview, W. Va. to be postmarked.

"There is no charge for the postmark or the smile," she said.

In Loveland, Colo., more than 200,000 cards and letters were handled last year, from more than 100 countries and every state in the Union. More than 20 million Valentines have been re-mailed by Loveland since the start of the program in 1947.

It is the largest program of its kind in the world, with 50 volunteers who gather each year to hand stamp the cards at the local Chamber of Commerce. The stamps are created by a local artist and selected through a contest.

"It's a fascinating program, but believe me it's a lot of work," said Cindy Kinney, postmaster of Loveland, Colo., who has been stamping since 1993. "But the stories really pull you in and really pull at your heart. Each Valentine has a story, you never know exactly what that story is. But you know that for someone to take the time to send it to Loveland, there's usually a special story behind that Valentine."

Some letters are from people sending Valentines to loved ones who are ill, or from grandparents who are following in the footsteps of those before them and send their grandchildren these specially marked cards.

Another Loveland, in Ohio, has served as a Cupid's headquarters since 1972. Valentine events consist of a cancelation program, a poetry contest, a breakfast and a Valentine lady who is crowned each year. Last year, they sent out more than 200,000 cards.

In Valentine, Neb., the post office expects 5,000 Valentines this year. Since its start in 1941, the program puts a cache stamp on the envelope in addition to the regular stamp to add a special touch.

"We really take pride in our name," said Diedre Markus, postmaster. "It's neat to see the different requests people have."

For those feeling extra romantic, Romeo, Mich. and Juliette, Ga. partner up to offer a special "Romeo and Juliet" postmark.

Other special postmarking cities include:

-Valentine, Texas, received 18,000 cancelations last year and goes back more than 30 years;
- Bliss, N.Y., received 3,133 cancelations last year and started its program in 1989;
- Hartsville, Tenn. received 150 requests last year -- the first year of its special postmark program.

For those who want to send an opposite message, Diablo, Calif. does a special postmark as well.

"If some people are not feelin' the love, maybe they would want to get these Valentine's instead," said Augustine Ruiz, USPS spokesperson. "If you think about the post office, that's our mission, to bind people together, no matter the sentiment."

There will be approximately 145 million valentine cards sold this year, according to the Greeting Card Association.

Thinking of sending a Valentine to a loved one? Check out the cities with the pink markers.

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