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Nerinx Post Office Finds a New Home

Posted on July 31, 2022, by Loretto Community

by Michael Bickett, Motherhouse Service Coordinator

Archival black and white photo of a long brick building with a woodshed attached on the left side. A man with a white hat and long white apron stands in front of the door of the building.
Mr. Betz, Motherhouse baker, poses with loaves of bread in front of the Bake House at the Motherhouse, circa 1924.
Photo courtesy of Loretto Archives

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) actually made the call. Once the Supreme Court decided the government could require COVID-19 vaccinations for nursing home employees, the long-term location of the Nerinx Post Office in the basement of the Infirmary was on life support. While Infirmary employees could be required to be vaccinated, U.S. postal workers could not.

The U.S. Postal Service is a private contractor working solely for the federal government and is responsible for providing postal services to the country. Under the service’s regulations, employees could not be required to be vaccinated. Thus being vaccinated as an employee of the U.S. Postal Service was a personal choice.

Archival photo of a mustached man in a white hat and apron standing in an old brick kitchen next to a table with stacks of bread, holding a bread paddle with multiple loaves on it.
Mr. Betz hard at work in the Motherhouse Bakehouse in the 1930s.
Photo courtesy of the Loretto Archives.

That set the stage for our challenge. All Motherhouse employees had to be vaccinated but we had no authority to tell the post office worker to be vaccinated. What to do?

Infirmary Administrator Michelle Essex was no fan of having a post office in the nursing home and believed it surely is the only such arrangement in the country. At the same time, she was not looking to
move it. As the deadline for CMS-required vaccinations approached, the Loretto Motherhouse Community had to decide.

Time was up for an Infirmary post office. But where could it go? At our January Community meeting, residents tossed around ideas, suggestions, pros and cons of a new location for the post office. A small committee was selected and given the task of proposing a new location from those suggestions.

Long brick building with a sign on the ground that reads "Nerinx Post Office"
The bakehouse at the Motherhouse today.
Photo by Donna Mattingly

At one point the former outhouse building, now known as the Valley House, was an option. In the end the Community selected the old Bake House, which sits behind the yellow kitchen, serving the Community as the recycle center and the Glory Bee honey operations. A hundred years ago, our Archives knows, this was the home and work space of Mr. Betz, the baker.

Next, the U.S. Postal Service had to agree to the site selected. I made numerous phone calls and
sent emails that seemed to go nowhere. Liz Perez, a member of that small committee, suggested
we get political power involved. So, a request was made to our U.S. Representative James Comer for

Very soon after that, on a late February day and much to our surprise, three U.S. Postal
Service officials arrived on the Motherhouse campus to inspect our proposed location. The negotiations began. Could we do this? Could we do that? Finally, it was decided: The new location must be
accessible for the disabled, secure and provide a restroom! “If you can do that,” stated the official,
“we will approve the location.” Our answer was simple, “We will make it happen.”

The maintenance team, under the leadership of Steve Gootee, our director of maintenance, rolled into action. The recycle center and honey operations were moved to a new home. A garage bay was transformed into a well-equipped, organized storage unit complete with a garage door and upgrades to the water and electric systems.

Photo of a room under construction - doors and windows are yet unframed, and two blocks of post office boxes are visible on the left side of the room.
Work on the interior of the Motherhouse post office continues.
Photo by Donna Mattingly

In the Bake House, our maintenance team installed new lighting, postal boxes, a package drop box, a window counter for the postal worker, an accessible bathroom, a ramp and a modern heating and air system. With a fresh coat of paint and a new front door, the Nerinx Post Office is back in business!

The 1886 building still has the charm of its past. You can see the original oven that Mr. Betz used and almost smell the fresh-baked bread. On the wall, a few pictures tell the story of its past as we look forward to its new future.


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Loretto welcomes you

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