About 40 guys who work for the post office found a unique way this month to support one of their own who is facing ongoing cancer treatment.
They all grew beards.
For the past month, Columbus Post Office employees signed on for No Shave November, a nationwide effort to raise awareness about men’s health and cancer. But this local version also was a chance to help one of their own.
Bob Malone of Seymour had worked for the local post office for more than 20 years as a carrier, primarily delivering mail in the Hillcrest and Everroad Park areas of Columbus. He retired in October after learning his Stage IV pancreatic cancer had spread to his liver.
His post office co-workers — front-counter personnel, those who sort the mail, those who deliver on foot and in the rural areas, and the maintenance crew — decided to raise money in Malone’s honor. No Shave recommends that participants donate the money they would normally spend on haircuts and shaving to the cause of cancer awareness.
The money they raised, however, is being put toward helping the Malone family.
On Tuesday, several of his friends from the post office delivered about $800 they had raised during November to be used to help pay travel expenses and other costs associated with Malone’s ongoing chemotherapy treatments scheduled in Chicago and Seymour.
Post office worker Charles Anderson said the money also is to tide the Malone family over from his last check from the post office and the beginning of his retirement benefits, which haven’t started yet.
“He had to retire, and he can’t work. We’re trying to fill in the in-between,” Anderson said. “It’s just kind of hard times for him.”
Malone, who will finish his sixth, seventh and eighth rounds of chemotherapy in Seymour in the coming weeks, said his gratitude toward his co-workers is difficult to express in words.
In addition to the post office union sending a donation to the family and co-workers sending monetary support, the post office workers also have done what they do best, delivering cards and letters filled with love and support to his doorstep.
His co-workers also stop by to check on him and have been making telephone calls to let Malone know they are thinking of him.
“These people are just so caring,” the Jackson County native said. “The photos, letters — they are so encouraging.”
It also took encouragement to get as many guys on board to grow beards throughout November, Anderson said.
Some said they had never grown a beard before, and there were a few comments of “my wife will kill me,” post office employee Gary Shehan said.
“One of the things some of them said was, ‘It’ll itch,’ but I said it won’t be near as painful as cancer,” Shehan said.
A.J. Anderson at 26 is one of the younger post office workers who grew a beard — and endured some good-natured teasing as he had just gotten out of the Marines and finally was allowed to grow facial hair.
“I’ve waited to do this for four years,” he said, smiling as one of his co-workers pointed out that under his hat was a shaved head.
Initially the goal was to raise $500 for Malone — which averaged about $5 per participant. But the workers have exceeded that by several hundred dollars and hope to do more.
Andy Combs, who has worked for the post office for about nine months, said he knows just how expensive the incidental expenses of traveling to cancer appointments can be. His father died from a rare form of stomach cancer several months ago and had incurred those same expenses.
Combs grew a beard, donated money to the cause and keeps in touch now then with Malone to check on his progress.
“What we all want to do is send a group pic of all of us — a real nice portrait — to Bob so he can see how many people really care about him,” Combs said.
Anthony Gast, a 12-year post office employee, described Malone as a funny guy who was always caring and giving to his co-workers. As Malone prepared to visit a doctor before his diagnosis, Gast said his co-workers could tell he was struggling and worried about him.
“The last few days he was here, it just broke your heart to know he was hurting,” Gast said.
Mike Winchester, one of Malone’s close friends at the post office, said he hopes Malone will feel well enough next spring to go on a golfing trip with his buddies.
Another close friend, David Hoeltke, said the more immediate goal is to have Malone attend the postal carriers’ Christmas party, if he’s feeling up to it.
The bond among the post office employees is something they hope Malone will continue to experience even as he goes through cancer treatments, Combs said.
“We’re brothers and sisters of the post office,” he said. “We have to have each other’s back.”
Anyone interested in sending a get-well message or donation to help the Malone family may do so through their Columbus mail carrier on their route.
Donations cannot be accepted at the post office.
To send a card or donation, place it in a sealed envelope marked “For postal carrier Bob Malone, in care of the Columbus Post Office,” and the carrier will make sure it gets to Malone.
To learn more about No-Shave November, visit no-shave.org/.