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

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid