Children writing letters to Santa Claus is a long-standing tradition. But postal workers and volunteers in Los Angeles and around the country are working this season to uphold another tradition through the U.S. Postal Service: responding to those letters.
For more than a century, the postal service has authorized employees and local citizens to respond to children’s letters to Santa.
Richard Maher, a USPS spokesman, said by Christmas, the Greater LA area will have sent in about 30,000 such letters.
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Postal workers then open, read and sort through the letters, setting aside ones sent in by children or families in need for the public to read and respond to. The workers also redact personal information such as addresses.
At locations in South LA, Santa Ana and Santa Clarita, volunteers of Operation Santa are working through Dec. 18 to respond to these letters.
"It’s kind of making me sad there’s so many," volunteer Jennifer Kemmerer said.
Kemmerer said she is choosing letters for her whole family, who will then buy gifts for the needy children instead of each other.
Gretchen Neuble said giving back is a holiday tradition for her family, and her company, where she’ll deliver some of the letters and let the staff go shopping.
"By the grace of God that could be us," she said.
One trend this year has been that more adults are sending in letters, which Maher said could be attributed to the economy or people being out of work.
One 10-year-old girl sent in a letter asking for a present for her mom, who she said works hard to support the family.
"That somebody doesn’t think of themselves, a child, and thinks of somebody else, it touches your heart," Maher said.
Another volunteer, Humberto Medrano, said he tries to make the operation a learning experience for his children as well.
"I try to take them each a letter as well so they can see people out there need stuff and also you need to appreciate what you have."
Maher said there are about 800 letters from the area so far.