PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- When the COVID-19 pandemic started, an unlikely friendship began.
The Westfall family was one of many who elected to stay indoors to prevent the spread of the novel virus. Thea and Scott were busy working from home, but keeping their kids busy was a different challenge.
"He's a little guy who's a big truck guy," Thea said about her youngest, 2-year-old Julius. "With us being home so much, the excitement of the mailman coming daily has become a part of his routine."
Their Roxborough neighborhood USPS letter carrier, Joseph "Jody" Forte, also found comfort in his customers.
"People realize how hard we work and how it's not an easy job," Forte said. "As long as you see some appreciation here and then, it makes the job worth it."
Luckily for Forte, there was plenty of generosity to go around. Many neighbors left snacks and hand sanitizer on their porches for his use. But he was especially moved by the colorful signs of support pasted on the Westfalls' front door.
"Every day, I see this little boy. He writes me letters and leaves them on the door. He waves from the window, waves to me every day," said Forte.
Julius would also assemble his lineup of mail-inspired toys on the window sill, patiently awaiting Forte's arrival. Therefore, it was no surprise when Forte learned what Julius wanted to be for Halloween.
Thea Westfall said, "The next day, I just came out and there was a mailman costume right on the front door."
A picture-perfect fit for Julius, the miniature USPS uniform was a hand-me-down with which Forte once dressed his own child for Halloween. He felt it was better served in the Westfalls' wardrobe than his own.
"I thought he would really appreciate it," Forte said. He was right.
Julius loved the costume and wanted to wear it weeks before Halloween came around.
"Yes, he's already got a full-time profession," Julius' father, Scott, joked. "So, we're happy to see that."
The Westfalls continue to appreciate their additional family time at the expense of social distancing, holding onto their children before they grow up too fast.
In the meantime, Forte is enjoying his first day off in nearly a month, electing to work extra days to meet the needs of a strenuous year for postal workers nationwide. Julius will be waiting by the front door waiting to officially say, "Thank you," to his personal hero!