Santa’s elves in North Pole, Alaska, are in search of a new address
ANCHORAGE: Santa’s “elves” at the North Pole have been given their walking papers – but they’re not going quietly.
The volunteer “elves” are trying to counter a decision by the US Postal Service to discontinue a programme begun in 1954 in the small Alaskan town of North Pole, where they open and respond to thousands of letters addressed to “Santa Claus, North Pole” each year.
“The city was founded on the Christmas theme,” Gabby Gaborik, chief elf among several dozen volunteers, said on Thursday. “This is our identity. This is North Pole, Alaska.”
Gaborik said he met with Postal Service officials this week to come up with an alternative. He’s now working with local government officials to get “101 Santa Claus Lane” as an address for his group, Santa’s Mailbag.
That way children will have a specific destination for their letters, allowing volunteers to run their own programme and bypass stringent new rules implemented by the Postal Service after security issues arose in a similar programme in Maryland last year.
People in North Pole are incensed by the changes. The letter programme is a revered holiday tradition in North Pole, where lamp posts are curved and striped like candy canes and streets have names like Kris Kringle Drive. Volunteers in the letter programme even sign the response letters as Santa’s elves and helpers.
The North Pole programme was stymied by a tighter process put in place nationwide by the Postal Service after a postal worker in Maryland recognised a volunteer with the agency’s Operation Santa programme as a registered sex offender. The worker intervened before the individual could answer a child’s letter, but the agency viewed the scare as a reason to tighten security and bar volunteers from having access to children’s last names and addresses.
The Postal Service decided this month to end the North Pole letter programme, saying dealing with the tighter restrictions isn’t feasible in Alaska.
Santa Claus House, a North Pole store built like a Swiss chalet and chock full of all sorts of Christmas items, sells more than 100 000 letters from Santa, and one of the lures is the postmark.
Alaska’s congressional delegation has stepped in to find a solution. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, Democratic Senator Mark Begich and Republican Republican Don Young have sent letters to Postmaster General John Potter expressing concerns over the changes. – Sapa-AP