LOS ANGELES, CA (FOX 11) - Christmas is right around the corner, meaning children across the country will be sending their wish lists to Santa Claus in the coming weeks, and the U.S. Postal Service will begin its annual program to ensure those kids get answers.
Starting around December 1st, the USPS Operation Santa program will begin allowing the public to adopt letters to Santa written by low income children. Christmas volunteers may adopt a child's letter to Santa and mail gifts directly to the child who wrote him.
The program dates back to 1912, when Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock authorized postal service workers and residents to respond to letters written to Santa Claus.
In the 1940's, the USPS reached out to businesses and charitable groups to help respond to the growing number of letters to Santa. Post Office officials say that even in today's world of email, Twitter and text messages, many children still put pen to paper to send their gift wishes to the North Pole.
Officials with the nonprofit BeAnElf.org work to raise awareness of the campaign and recruit volunteers even though their organization is not affiliated with the Postal Service.
"Some Operation Santa volunteers feel alone and sad over the holidays, and find comfort and inspiration volunteering for this program. Others have families and bring their kids to teach them the meaning of Christmas," says Patrick Reynolds, Chief Elf at Be An Elf.
Officials with the nonprofit note that many of the letters simply ask for things such as warm clothing, toys or even food.
This year the letters to Santa may be picked up at a single postal branch in each of the following 15 cities: Los Angeles, New York, Syracuse, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Orlando, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Santa Clarita CA and Santa Ana CA. Each branch sets its own schedule for the program.
A list of participating post offices and information on volunteering is available online at www.BeAnElf.org.