Santa's letters: Helping Children's Dreams Come True

By on December 14, 2009 in Current Events with 0 Comments

 

Dear Santa,
I am write you to ask you to help my mom who is a single mother of 5 children and is having money problem this year. She’s been out of work for quit some time due to her car accident. She is not asking for you to help her with much and she only need help with my brother and I. My brother is turning two and I’m ten.
 
I would like to have a new pair of shoes for school and a Nintendo DS and my brother will just settle for some clothes and toys.
 
Thank you Santa.
 
P.S. Can you give my mom a turkey for Christmas?
 
In an area of the Philadelphia Main Post Office — normally reserved for customers applying for passports — a Christmas tree and red cloth-covered table lined with three small boxes brimming with letters, just like this one from 10-year-old Latasha, take center stage. In the name of Santa Claus and fulfilling the wishes of those in need this holiday season, customers read letters and, if they decide to take on a little gift giving for the Jolly Ole Elf, they fill out a couple forms, show Retail Associate Nicole Butler their ID and set out to deliver a little magic to those in need.
 
"Letters to Santa" is the Postal Service’s letter-writing campaign that lets members of the public and charitable organizations respond to letters written by children to Santa Claus, the North Pole and other seasonal addresses.
 
The Postal Service began receiving letters to Santa Claus more than 100 years ago. But it wasn’t until 1912 that Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock authorized local Postmasters to let postal employees and citizens respond to the letters in the program that became known as Operation Santa.
 
By 1940, mail volume for Santa increased so much that the Postal Service invited charitable organizations and corporations to participate by providing written responses to the letters and small gifts to the children who wrote them.
 
Today, unlike days gone by, any personal information including the address of the letter writer is kept confidential. In Philadelphia, Customer Relations Coordinator Jane Maull takes the lead to ensure privacy. "I open the letter, block out personal information, copy the letter, add the letter-writer’s ZIP Code, and number the letter so that the final delivery address can easily be found when the gifts are brought back into the Post Office for mailing," Maull explained.
 
Philadelphia volunteers wanting to help local families come to the Main Post Office, 3000 Chestnut Street, to read letters from noon to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, up until December 18. There are six different locations where the gifts — packaged ready to mail — can be returned.
 
"I control the list," said Maull. "Employees in the satellite offices know what postage to charge because of the ZIP Code on the letters. They tape the letters to the package and their supervisor calls me for the complete mailing address.
 
"Some volunteers send gift cards to families in need if they don’t want to mail a package," she said. "This is not a money making project for the Postal Service. We are going the extra mile to make sure every letter writer’s privacy is protected."
Last year of the near 700 letters sent to Santa from children and families in the Philadelphia Metro area, 468 were answered. "In the past, volunteers could go to the letter writer’s home. Many delivered food, decorations and toys," Maull said. "But times change; we are simply protecting the children."
 
"A lot of the volunteers come year after year," said Butler as three young men sat quietly reading letters. "Some people cry when they read the letters," she said.
One of the men said a local youth group wanted to help those less fortunate so they earned $400 and this is how they wanted to spend their money — by answering a few letters.
 
Maull adds that as much as she takes the lead, she has a team of "elves" helping her every year. This year’s team includes: Consumer Affairs Manager Regina Foster-Carter; Retail Manager Mike McGough; Retail Specialists Devra Jamison, Mary Chimenti and Mark Hadfield; Communications Specialist Donna Graham DiLacqua; Customer Service Associate Donna Saulino and Retail Associate Nicole Butler.
 
"It’s like this every year," Maull added. "We had an attorney office take several letters while individuals will take one or two. It really swells my heart."
 
This year, 39 participating postal facilities, including Philadelphia, are involved in the program nationwide. For a complete listing, go to the website http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2009/holiday/hpr.htm?from=home_newsandannounce&page=HolidayPressRoom and click on the Letters to Santa image.

 

© 2016 Marilyn Jones. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Marilyn Jones.

About the Author

Marilyn Jones has been a journalist for more than 30 years and is currently a freelance feature writer specializing in travel. Her articles have appeared in major newspapers including the BostonGlobe, Akron Beacon Journal and Chicago Sun-Times as well as regional travel magazines.

Visit her website at travelwithmarilyn.com

Top