Santa Clarita Valley residents have the unique opportunity to answer personalized letters to Santa Claus this holiday season through the United States Postal Services’ Operation Santa program.
Currently in its 105th year, the Operation Santa program allows individuals, families and companies to act as Santa Claus as they “adopt” letters and purchase, wrap and mail gifts to underprivileged families throughout the country.
“There is no charity of middleman involved. It goes directly from the person to the child or to the needy family,” said Patrick Reynolds, founder of the non-profit Be An Elf, which creates public awareness of the Operation Santa program and recruits new volunteers to adopt letters to Santa. “The return addresses are redacted on the letters to protect their privacies.”
Requests from children and parents include items like toys and games, but they also include requests for new shoes, a warm coat, school supplies and food.
“Some people are alone during the holidays and they find comfort and inspiration going down to the post office and doing this for children during the holidays,” Reynolds said. “Others bring their families to teach them the meaning of Christmas.”
In Santa Clarita, residents can adopt letters at the Sierra Coastal District office, located at 28201 Franklin Parkway, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. this Tuesday and Thursday.
Volunteers then have until Dec. 21 to drop off wrapped gifts to the USPS location for mailing.
Reynolds and those at Be An Elf recommend that volunteers adopt several letters as a group and work together to purchase items before they wrap the gifts together during an event like a holiday party.
“I know from experience when you answer one letter we would buy 7 to 10 gifts and put them in mailing for the families. It’s time consuming and a lot of work,” Reynolds said. “That’s why Be An Elf recommends getting together a small gathering of friends where each person brings a gift and wraps it at the party. Then one person is delegated to mail it all.”
Residents who cannot take the time to adopt letters themselves can also make a difference in children’s lives by making a donation to Be An Elf, which adopted 52 letters to Santa this year.
The group is also working with the USPS location in New York to adopt letters to Santa from children and families in Puerto Rico, which was recently ravaged by Hurricane Maria.
“If readers don’t have time, they can donate online at our site,” Reynolds said. “The gifts are tax-deductible and we are aiming to send every family a $100 Target gift card for the 52 letters we’ve adopted… We need to raise about $5,000 to be able to fulfill the wishes of these 52 letters.”
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