Operation Santa seeking donors for holiday magic

Annual USPS program runs letter adoption to help families in need

- Susan Miller

’Twas six weeks before Christmas and in the North Pole, creatures were stirring and whirring, eyes on their goal.

Yes, Santa Claus Lane opened for traffic much earlier this year – and now it’s time for holiday angels to get in on the action.

The U.S. Postal Service’s Operation Santa, which began accepting letters from those in need in mid-September, will launch registrati­on and ID verificati­on Monday for potential gift-givers. Letter adoptions begin on Nov. 28, and USPSOperat­ hopes to soon be making magic for thousands of families who would otherwise face a dark winter.

The program, now in its 110th year, is completely digital. USPS has built a robust social following for Santa on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And for the first time, USPS is proactivel­y promoting Operation Santa in Spanish.

“We are trying to reach people where they are so they know about the program, know how to address an envelope, and the components necessary,” said Sue Brennan, senior PR representa­tive for USPS.

At the program’s core are the helping hearts – from companies to community groups to schools to private citizens – whose kindness lifts up strangers living on the margins.

“We’ve received so many thank-you notes and cards telling us that without this program, there would have been no gifts at all. We have seen amazing generosity that has brought us to tears,” Brennan said.

How the program works

Operation Santa provides an online channel where people can adopt letters written to Santa safely and securely.

Letters must include the letter writer’s first and last name and a complete return address (including street, apartment number, city, state, and ZIP code.) The envelope must have a postage stamp and be addressed to: Santa Claus, 123 Elf Road, North Pole, 88888.

The postal service even has a tips page on how to write a stellar Santa letter and templates little scribes can use.

The letters are then opened and reviewed at Santa’s U.S. “satellite workshop,” personal informatio­n is redacted, and they are uploaded onto the USPS Santa website.

As of Monday, those interested in adopting letters and sending gifts can go to USPSOperat­, create an account and have their identities verified. Letter writers don’t need to register.

The last day to send letters this year is Dec. 12; Dec. 19 is the last day to adopt. When someone adopts a letter, they receive instructio­ns and a QR code that will allow them to send up to six packages for an individual adoption or up to 12 for family adoptions, Brennan said. The donors are responsibl­e for shipping gifts and paying postage.

Last year, USPS was inundated with thousands of letters by opening day for adoptions. But initially only 2,500 had the correct informatio­n to be posted – and they were all adopted within 10 minutes of the site opening, Brennan said.

USPS decided to open the program much earlier this year, she said, to have more letters with correct informatio­n available for adoption on opening day.

Operation Santa’s humble start

Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock conjured up Santa’s first mailroom in 1912, instructin­g local postmaster­s to let workers and citizens respond to Santa letters that were popping up in post offices. By the 1940s, the volume of mail increased so much that Operation Santa opened to charities, corporatio­ns and beyond.

In 2017, Santa dipped his toe in the digital waters with the first online program in New York, which expanded across the U.S. in the following years.

Operation Santa hit the big screen in 2020, with the premiere of the documentar­y “Dear Santa.”

The program – and the needs – continue to grow. Last year saw almost 25,000 letters adopted and more than 21,000 packages shipped.

 ?? PROVIDED BY USPS ?? The USPS Operation Santa program receives thousands of letters each year, many that tug on heartstrin­gs.
PROVIDED BY USPS The USPS Operation Santa program receives thousands of letters each year, many that tug on heartstrin­gs.

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