Inside the Retirement Community for Mail Carriers

PHOTO: Nalcrest is a retirement community for former mail carriers.Nalcrest
Nalcrest is a retirement community for former mail carriers.

Nestled in a marshy area about an hour south of Orlando, Florida, is the Nalcrest retirement community, which boasts tennis courts, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a 15-square-mile lake for fishing and boating.

It’s no different from any other retirement community beloved by snowbirds in central Florida -- except that virtually everyone who lives at Nalcrest is a retired mail carrier.

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"It's great because they all have something in common," said Denise Hoffman, whose husband, Edward, was a mail carrier in New York for 36 years. "There's no one trying to outdo the Joneses, so to speak, because they all get basically the same kind of retirement."

PHOTO: A lake provides boating and fishing for residents.Nalcrest
A lake provides boating and fishing for residents.

The Hoffmans moved to Nalcrest in 2008.

"We have bingo every Monday night, and we have a shop where there's pool tables and ping-pong tables, and sometimes the guys play cards," Denise Hoffman said. "And we have a library. It's absolutely fabulous. And you can be busy 24 hours a day or you can be a couch potato."

The community is open to anyone who’s a retired letter carrier and part of The National Association of Letter Carriers, the labor union that founded Nalcrest 50 years ago.

PHOTO: A cafe on the grounds of Nalcrest.Nalcrest
A cafe on the grounds of Nalcrest.

George Wolz, 75, worked for the postal service in Louisville, Kentucky. He said it's nice to be able to talk about his career with people who understand. One frequent topic of conversation among former mail carriers? Dog bites.

"I was talking about them last night!" he said. "My last 19 years, it wasn't a problem, because I was in downtown Louisville, but before that I was bitten four times. Three of the four times, I petted the dogs and talked to them before they bit me."

In between swapping stories, Nalcrest residents spend their days at the lake or the pool, or riding bikes or playing games.

PHOTO: Nalcrest residents playing tennis.Nalcrest
Nalcrest residents playing tennis.

"I can say, they never get bored!" said Matty Rose, 70, a former mailman who now serves as president of the Nalcrest trustees. He doesn't live in the community but said he would if he didn't already own his home.

Best of all: The rent is cheap, Rose said. Prices start at $395 a month for a one-bedroom apartment and all of the amenities are included. The low prices mean many tenants can afford to be snowbirds, he added.

PHOTO: Residents in the pool at Nalcrest.Nalcrest
Residents in the pool at Nalcrest.

"They're there in the wintertime and have another residence somewhere else," Rose said.

While nearly everyone in the community is a former letter carrier -- or married to one -- hard times have occasionally forced the organization to allow other people to move in.

PHOTO: The apartments at Nalcrest.Nalcrest
The apartments at Nalcrest.

"Sometimes, like during the recession, we've allowed other union members or even civilians -- friends of letter carriers -- to stay there," Rose said.