"Dear Santa" is the beginning of many childhood holiday wishes. Filled with tales of Santa's army of elves busy at work and the jolly man himself delivering goodies to kids all over the world, children love to take part in the magic by writing a letter to Santa.
All children want a chance to believe in something magical, particularly during the holiday season. The problem is that when Mom and Dad have difficulty paying their rent or food bills, they often have nothing left over to buy a present.
Thanks to the generosity and compassion of strangers, children from needy families with a belief in Christmas miracles can write to Santa and have their wishes granted. Operation Letters to Santa, coordinated by the United States Postal Service, collects letters, reviews them for need and puts the letters up for "adoption" -- interested volunteers can come by to "adopt" a letter and fulfill a child's wish. Not all post offices participate, so research one near you. The Postal Service operated Santa program has an emphasis on children's safety: Volunteers must provide identification and fill out a form before being allowed to choose a letter, and personal identification information about each child such as last name or address is blacked out. Companies and civic organizations can also adopt letters.
Children can address letters to "Dear Santa" at "Santa Claus, North Pole, Alaska." They must put the proper postage on the envelope; letters stay in the general area that they are mailed from (using the full return mail address). Letters are sorted by content (greetings to Santa, asking for presents) and by need, and they are then sent to a local participating post office. All adopted letters must be picked up in person. Postal workers, individuals, companies and organizations who choose to adopt a letter then shop for one or more items on the child's Christmas wish list must bring these gifts to the post office and pay postage for shipping. It's estimated that the annual letters to Santa are in the millions, so this is quite an undertaking. Visit your local post office to find out how you can help.
Although not affiliated with the Postal Service, Be An Elf works with the postal service's Operation Santa program and helps to recruit volunteers and publicize the need for "elves" to purchase gifts. If you don't have the time to adopt a letter and shop, or if there is no local participating office, you can make a donation to Be An Elf to help them advertise and promote the Operation Letters to Santa program at: Be An Elf, 8117 W. Manchester Ave., Suite 500, Playa del Rey, CA 90293.
Macy's department stores encourage children to write letters to Santa and drop them off in special collection boxes in the store during the holiday season. Macy's donates $1 (up to $1 million) to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for each Santa letter they receive. This is a wonderful way for all children to be a part of something big and experience the magic of giving. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a nonprofit that works to make the wishes of children with life-threatening conditions come true.
Sending a letter to Santa and receiving a response is a thrill for any young child. Santa loves to hear about school, games and more. Children can write their letters and ask Mom or Dad to mail them. Parents should mail the letters in an envelope (along with a self-addressed and stamped envelope addressed to their child) to: Santa Claus, North Pole, H0H 0H0, Canada; letters should be received by Dec. 16. Make sure you include enough postage on both envelopes.