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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More