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Santa's Helpers, One Letter at a Time

A letter from Santa, delivered with care to children across the country, is a century-old U.S. Postal Service tradition. (Greg Stotelmyer)
A letter from Santa, delivered with care to children across the country, is a century-old U.S. Postal Service tradition. (Greg Stotelmyer)
December 24, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. – At a time when "goodwill toward men" may seem to be in short supply, many kids across Kentucky and the nation are having their holiday wishes answered by perfect strangers – just because they dropped a letter in the mail.

It's a timeless tradition: kids writing to Santa, and for more than a century, "Operation Santa" has allowed Postal Service employees to write back. USPS spokesperson Darleen Reid says by the 1940s, Santa's mailbox had grown so full that, "with his permission," the Postal Service invited community groups to help by "adopting" letters.

"Some folks get very surprised – they get a response from Santa," says Reid. "Some get a written response, some get a gift, some get a gift card. We let them choose how they're going to respond."

Reid says the letters to Santa typically remain in the area from which they were mailed, and all personal information, aside from the child's age and what they are asking for, is redacted.

While Santa is known for his jolly demeanor, Reid says helping him make holiday wishes come true can sometimes be heartbreaking, given the nature of some letters - like one received this year.

"The very first one that we read out loud was a child not asking for any toys, or electronics, or anything like that that you would expect. He asked for rice and beans," she says. "So, a lot of the letters have great need and want."

And that even includes touching letters from adults. Reid says some Santa's helpers have been answering letters right up to Christmas Eve. Now, it's all up to Santa.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY