Kendleton Mayor Darryl Humphrey was stunned to learn Tuesday that his town's small brick post office is among 3,700 targeted for possible closure nationwide.
After all, this Fort Bend County town's first post office opened 127 years ago, not long after former slaves founded the community. Over the decades the office has grown into a local fixture where residents congregate to post notices and collect mail since they have no home delivery.
But now its fate looks dim as one of 219 post offices in Texas on the closure list, the most of any state. And at least 12 of the locations are from the Houston area.
"The closest other post office is 10 miles away," said Humphrey, whose town has 600 residents. "Some of our seniors can't afford the $4 gas to go that far. A lot don't have cars and have to walk to the Kendleton office."
The U.S. Postal Service announced Tuesday that it is considering shutting down thousands of post offices to cut costs and adapt to customers who prefer using the Web, smart phones or a favorite shopping destination for mail service.
If all the proposed cuts are made, it would mean an 11 percent reduction in the country's nearly 32,000 post offices.
"We will be studying the proposed closures on this list for about the next 130 days," said Earl Artis, southwest Postal Service spokesman. "It's a process, to see if it makes sense to close them."
But Artis stressed that it would be a business decision, not one based on maintaining a community's identity.
The Postal Service maintains that it cannot sustain itself without making bold changes as it's losing $23 million daily. How many jobs would be eliminated has not been determined, Artis said, as some workers will be transferred to other offices.
Officials will consider, among other factors, the impact each closure would have on its community and the potential economic savings for the Postal Service.
Dionne Montague, spokeswoman for the Postal Service in Houston, said the targeted offices had minimal workloads and were within a 10-mile radius of another postal facility.
Residents served by the post offices have 60 days to file comments with their postal branch on the closing.
Humphrey noted that his town is still reeling after being stripped of its schools when the Texas Education Agency merged the low-performing Kendleton district with Lamar Consolidated ISD two years ago.
He feels like his community will be erased from society if the post office is removed, too.
Customers at the Denver Harbor and Martin Luther King post offices in Houston were also disheartened to learn that their facilities could end up being shuttered.
Tears filled 52-year-old Mary Wicker's eyes as she spoke about visiting the Denver Harbor post office in south Houston since she was 12 years old.
"Do I need to get out there with a sign and protest?" she wondered. "My heart is broken now. This is in my neighborhood. It's one of the oldest communities in Houston."
Wicker anticipated dealing with more traffic and longer lines if she is forced to go elsewhere. She also worries about the future of postal employees whom she is accustomed to seeing there.
Herman Jefferson, 55, is concerned for the elderly served by the Martin Luther King location in southeast Houston.
"It would be a disaster," Jefferson said of closing the post office, noting that "a lot of these people don't have transportation."
The Martin Luther King location stays busy, said Jefferson, who makes a trip to the office two or three times a week. He uses the post office because he lacks confidence in his mail carrier, who he says often delivers the mail to the wrong house.
Still others think something must be done to put the Postal Service on sound financial footing.
Brazoria County Judge Joe King said he was not surprised to see the list included the tiny office in the unincorporated area of Danciger.
"For years, when I drove by, I wondered how many people it served," King said. "There's nothing there — just this tiny house about the size of my office, sitting in the yard of another house. There's nothing else out there."