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
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid