Homes at NALCREST. Photo couretsy of NALC.
NALCREST is a unique retirement community designated specifically for retired National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) members and their spouses. William Doherty, president of the NALC from 1941 to 1962 pushed this initiative near the end of his presidency.(1) In 1963, 253 acres were bought near Lake Weohyakapka or Lake Walk on Water, in Central Florida. The acronym stands for the National Association of Letter Carriers Retirement, Education, Security, and Training.(2) Because of Housing & Urban Development laws and the fact that the land was mortgaged, anyone, including non-NALC members could live on the grounds.(3) That changed in 2002 when the mortgage was paid off and NALCREST began to serve its intended community: NALC members. It is currently still only available to retired NALC members in good standing.
NALCREST has 500 apartments in 66 one-story buildings across its 253 acres.(4) It is a mix of studio and one-bedroom apartments available to retired NALC members who are able to care for themselves, especially important because NALCREST is a good length’s drive from any other town or hospital.(5) Most members only live at NALCREST about seven months of the year, escaping back north during Florida’s hottest months.(6)
There are several quirks that show this is absolutely a letter carrier’s heaven. Probably most revealingly, there are no dogs allowed! NALCREST even has its own ZIP Code: 33856! Paradoxically, there is also no home delivery of the mail, residents must visit NALCREST’s post office every morning to pick it up themselves. Thus, the post office has become the morning gathering place to socialize, mirroring the letter carriers’ lives before retirement. Another connection to that previous postal life starts even before members move in: interested members have only one option for paying the two months’ rent—postal money order.(7)
Residents also have a large variety of activities they can participate in during their time at NALCREST. Many of the activities and clubs are listed below.
- Pool & hot tub
- Driving Range
- Mini golf
- Art classes
- Duplicates Bridge
- Newspaper Recycling Club
- Pallette Pals
- Travel Club
- Photography Club
- American Legion Auxiliary
- Bowling League
- NALCREST Literary Society
Amusingly, the Literary Society does not discuss literature, instead it is an all-male club that gathers to drink, sing, and enjoy each other’s company: “Sometimes we [celebrate] four birthdays,” confided one member. . . “And it doesn’t exactly have to be your birthday.”(8) The newspaper-recycling club is also in charge of special events happening around NALCREST, such as milestone birthdays and anniversaries and welcoming new members. There have even been several weddings.(9) One resident remarked that the best part about NALCREST is that “no one’s left alone or even left out during the holiday season. This means a lot as the years pass.”(10)
Similar sentiments of gratitude and affection for NALCREST were equally telling of the strength of community created by a wide variety of types of people who come together because of only one thing: the fact that they were letter carriers. “There is a saying: ‘We’re all in the same boat.’ Here in Nalcrest, ‘We’re all in the same union.”(11)