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Santa’s helpers

USPS program aids those in need

Three postal workers donning Christmas garb assist customers
Three postal “elves” from Chicago’s Operation Santa program — from left, Tameka Lewis, Andriane Frazier and Marsha Henley — help customers select letters from families in need last year.

Santa Claus is once again getting a helping hand from the Postal Service.

Operation Santa, an annual USPS program that allows employees and customers to aid families in need by “adopting” their letters to St. Nick and granting their holiday wishes, will resume Monday, Dec. 3.

This year, the Postal Service is offering two versions of Operation Santa: a legacy program that will allow employees and customers to go to participating locations to adopt letters in person, and a digital program that will allow individuals in seven cities to go online to adopt letters.

Participants in the digital program can go to to read and adopt letters. Gifts can be mailed only at participating Post Offices in Austin, Indianapolis, New York City, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Washington, DC.

The letters received through Operation Santa are often heartbreaking. Many requests come from people who’ve experienced personal hardships.

In recent years, for example, a New York City child wrote to Santa to ask for a turkey so the child’s family could have a holiday meal, while a Philadelphia mother who lost her job wrote to ask for help providing Christmas gifts for her children.

Operation Santa traces its roots to 1912, when Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock authorized postal employees and customers to respond to letters addressed to Santa Claus.

“Through the years, Operation Santa has taken on a life of its own,” said Marketing Vice President Steve Monteith. “Today, cities around the United States have enormously successful programs with recognized charitable organizations, major corporations, local businesses, private citizens and postal employees making major differences in the lives of children from coast to coast.”

The USPS Holiday Newsroom site has more information, including program instructions, privacy guidelines and a list of locations participating in the legacy and digital versions.

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