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Kennedy post office turns 20

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The 20th anniversary celebration of the U.S. Postal Service's New York International Service Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport was more than a rededication of a building, it was a reaffirmation of family, friendship and camaraderie.

On Sunday, more than 1,000 postal employees, former employees and their families dropped by the largest mail center in the world to celebrate the building's 20th year with tours of the facility, exhibits, barbecue and games.

"I am elated to be here," said Al DeVine of Little Neck, who worked for the post office for 27 years before retiring in 1987 and was the plant's manager.

DeVine came back to visit with old co-workers, but more importantly to visit with his son, also named Al, who was recently appointed manager in plant at the JFK branch.

"It is kind of special because my father spent his career here," said DeVine, standing in his office. "This was his office at one time and, somehow after 22 years I made it back here."

The elder DeVine said returning to the plant brought back memories of his co-workers and the friends he made during his time in the postal service. But the best part, he said, was spending time with his family, especially his granddaughter, as they toured the plant.

"The most enjoyable thing is my granddaughter being able to see where her father works and where her grandfather once worked in the same office," he said.

The postal facility, which has about 2,100 employees, is the largest and most technologically advanced airport mail center in the world and processes more than 5 million pieces of mail a year. Serving the mail of hundreds of countries, the plant is open 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Building 250 houses the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Customs, U.S. Joint Military Postal Activities-Atlantic and the Jamaica Branch Post Office.

State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), who spoke at the rededication, said the plant plays an important role in the southeastern Queens economy because many residents are employed at the plant.

While the adults met with old friends and discussed times past, ate and laughed with each other, their children and grandchildren spent the day playing on rides like the fun house, giant slide and ball pit, and hanging out with the clowns who were making balloon toys and painting faces.

"The celebration gives everyone a chance to get together," said Antoinette Lawton, a clerk who has worked for the postal service for 15 years. "It is nice to see the people that I have not seen in a while and for the employees to be unified."

Curtis Jenkins of Springfield Gardens, who works as an expediter for military mail and has been employed at the JFK site for 34 years, said the celebration allowed him to see some of the plant's former employees.

He said his family was inside the plant checking out where he works, but he did not want to accompany them because he spends five days a week there.

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