Kennebec Tales

February 19

You think the winter has been bad? Try being a newspaper carrier

The people who deliver the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel are out 364 days a year in all kinds of weather, doing good deeds and sometimes saving lives.

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Some are nice about it, others not so much.

“Some customers are understanding and kind,” said Charlene McGraw, the circulation manager for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, this week. “Others don’t want any excuses.”

It’s been a long few months for McGraw and her crew. “I don’t like to make any excuses,” she said. “We try to make sure the papers are delivered every day, dry and ready for that customer to get their news.”

Still, “I can’t wait for this winter to end,” she said.

I think most of us are on board with that. Until it does, here are some things to think about as you sip your coffee in your warm kitchen reading your dry and almost-always-on-time paper:

We recently ran a story about Michael Poulin, of Winslow, who is suffering from multiple myeloma, a rare form of cancer, and his family’s effort to raise money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. The morning the original story was published, their Morning Sentinel carrier left an envelope in the Poulins’ Sunday paper.

Kathy Poulin, Michael’s wife, fought tears as she told reporter Jesse Scardina, “We’ve never met her before, but she had written a sweet note about how she didn’t have much to give and wanted to give some to support us and the foundation.”

Here’s something else to think about: Troy Rundstrom, a Kennebec Journal carrier who lives in Dresden, has been picked by the American Red Cross to receive the Real Heroes Good Samaritan of the Year award.

Rundstrom, 51, was delivering papers in December when he pulled Becky Berlew, of Pittston, from the water-filled car she was trapped in after it slid off the road.

Rundstrom isn’t the first Kennebec Journal carrier to save someone’s life in 2013.

In June, Rollie Pelkey, of Winthrop, found a Randolph customer bleeding and in distress after hearing a noise and checking it out. He not only got help, but put on his flashers so the ambulance could find the house and waited with her until it got there.

Bet there were some late papers on Rundstrom and Pelkey’s routes those mornings.

Even the carriers who haven’t saved a life recently or aren’t dropping off envelopes of money are still trying as hard as they can in really crummy conditions to get people their newspapers on time and in good shape, and there’s something kind of heroic in that.

I’m guessing none of them have ever dumped three dozen newspapers in an icy puddle, no matter how tempting the thought of home, breakfast and a warm fire may be.

McGraw said the carriers “do care about their customers.”

She said weather, road conditions and vehicle issues come into play when they deliver 364 days out of the year, but the carriers are committed to doing a good job.

A couple weeks ago the groundhog said we had six more weeks of this. We all know that’s the best-case scenario.

So next time the weather is bad — and you know it will be — give your carrier a break. Or even when the weather isn’t bad.

Rundstrom is invited to the Red Cross heroes breakfast in Lewiston May 13. It’s not a sure thing he’ll go, given the fact he didn’t want much publicity in December, when he pulled Becky Berlew from her car.

At the time, his mother, Gloria Rundstrom, said her son has been delivering newspapers for at least 25 years, and had helped people in two other crashes. She said the fact he’d done it before is probably one reason he doesn’t want attention.

“This happens,” she said. “This is part of a carrier’s job, I guess, to help people.”

And if something happens and you don’t get your paper, the best way to complain is still to call. The number is 800-370-5701. If you get to the circulation department by late morning, they’ll get it right to you.

Maureen Milliken is news editor of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Email her at mmilliken@centralmaine.com. Follow her on Twitter @mmilliken47. Kennebec Tales is published the first and third Thursday of the month.

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