News / USA

Postal Workers Play Santa as Children's Letters Pile Up

Operation Santa works to deliver gifts to the needy this holiday season

Some of the 22 postal
Some of the 22 postal "elves" who volunteer to organize letters to Santa and arrange for the public or charities to "adopt" them.

Multimedia

Audio

About two million letters addressed to Santa Claus that have been received by the main post office in New York City this Christmas season. For the past 70 years, postal workers around the country have read those letters hoping to make those wishes come true. It's part of an annual effort called, Operation Santa.


"We open them, we process them, and we make them available for the public to read," says Pete Fontana, who oversees the 22 postal  "elves" who volunteer to organize the letters and arrange for the public or charities to "adopt" them. "Some of them are funny, some of them are sad. We've had a number of people walk out of here crying this year because the letters are so needy with people like a single mom with three kids just lost her job and they are being evicted."

Pete Fontana, who oversees Operation Santa, amid the stacks of children's letters addressed to Santa Claus.
Pete Fontana, who oversees Operation Santa, amid the stacks of children's letters addressed to Santa Claus.

Although Fontana has seen a rise in the number of such letters due to the troubled economy, he says many 'Dear Santa' letters do come from relatively well-off children. One boy sent a computer printed wish list containing 500 items.

Most of the children ask for things their parents can't afford, or the things they see other kids have.  That includes electronics like game systems, digital cameras and laptop  computers. Others just ask for the basics.

"Or sometimes they'll ask for a jacket for their mothers because their mother doesn't have winter clothes or they don't have sheets for the bed or they are all sleeping on the floor. They even ask for a bed. It's just amazing the things that they ask for."

A sample of one of the two million letters to Santa received by the main post office in New York.
A sample of one of the two million letters to Santa received by the main post office in New York.

Fontana recalls the letter from a severely disabled child who asked Santa for a high tech wheelchair that cost nearly $20,000.  "The family didn't have health insurance. So the boy sent us a picture of it, and they put it in the one of the local papers. The next day we had somebody sponsoring the child to get his wheelchair. It felt great."  

For postal elf, Antoinette, working with Operation Santa to help kids is a highlight of her year. She imagines the children's joy when  postal workers come to the door with the "Santa gifts" they've requested. In the next room, another Operation Santa elf hands out photocopied Santa letters to ordinary New Yorkers like Paul.

"I am here to hopefully make one little kid's Christmas a little bit brighter," he says. "They gave me 10 letters to read and hopefully one of them [will contain a request for] …something I can afford."  

Substitute Santa Erica sifts through letters before deciding which child she will buy for.
Substitute Santa Erica sifts through letters before deciding which child she will buy for.

A young woman named Erica is moved by all the requests for toys, but is more interested in helping out with practical gifts, such as socks, sweaters, jackets and other winter clothes needed to battle the harsh New York winter weather  

"Toys are definitely beneficial as well but I think the necessities are definitely more important at this time," says Erica, who hopes to make kids happy. "They can't control circumstances, the parents lose their jobs or the parents can't afford to get them a gift, and if I have the means to help, I definitely will."   

Of the millions of requests Operation Santa receives every year, only 15 percent are now answered with an actual gift, but the U.S. Postal Service has written a letter to Santa asking him to make that number even higher  during next year's holiday season.  

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

Alaskans experiencing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more frequent and extensive wildfires, deteriorating glaciers, and swift shoreline erosion More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs