"Dear Santa" letters answered by U.S. Post Office program

Tue Dec 18, 2012 8:32pm EST
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By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - One 13-year-old boy who sent a "Dear Santa" letter to the U.S. Post Office this year asked only for covers for his bed, "so I can stay warm this winter."

Another letter from a 12-year-old wanted nothing for himself, just something for his single mother, because she worked so hard.

Heartrending letters like these are sent each year to the Post Office "Letters to Santa" program, now in its 100th year.

Postal employees go through the hundreds of thousands of letters addressed to "Santa Claus, North Pole, Alaska" to separate out those that express serious need.

Some of the letters are answered by charitable groups, businesses, schools, postal employees and individual anonymous givers, who can come to participating branches, pick letters and go shopping.

The Chicago branch has already seen 18,000 letters come in -- with more arriving every day, said communications director and "Chief Elf" Robin Anderson on Tuesday. She expects about 2,500 will be answered. The New York "Operation Santa" program is the country's largest, receiving more than a half a million letters each season.

Letters this year are reflecting a greater need for necessities, and have included more letters from adults looking for work who need help buying for their children, according to both Chicago postal workers and givers.

"You're reading letters from six-year-old, eight-year-old kids who aren't asking for video games, they're asking for winter coats and food on the table, which is not something you'd think of kids writing to Santa for," said Kelley Fernandez, 26, who along with her colleague Debbie Schmidt, 53, who work for Toji Trading Group and have answered letters from Santa for three years.   Continued...

An oversized poster with Santa Claus' address is on display at the entrance to the Main Post Office in Chicago, Illinois December 18, 2012. REUTERS/Jean Lachat