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Post office: Where Christmas wishes go to die

Postal Service cuts Santa program, leaving some letters to Saint Nick in jeopardy

Posted: November 21, 2009 8:22 p.m.
Updated: November 22, 2009 4:55 a.m.

A stack of some of the 'Dear Santa' letters that have arrived at the Castaic post office. Some employees will answer back to the letters with return addresses.

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Dozens of colorful cards sent from children to Santa Claus sit in a box at the Post Office Processing Center in Valencia.  

One note written on orange paper from a 10-year–old girl in Chicago asks Santa to protect her family from the cold.

“Santa can you help us to keep warm this year? All we want for Christmas is pajamas,” the note reads.  

Unfortunately, these letters may be more likely to wind up shredded in a trash bin than in Saint Nick’s hands this year.

The Los Angeles Postal Service has ended Operation Santa, a program where volunteers answer letters sent to the post office addressed to Santa Claus.

Post office employees are now the only people allowed to answer letters addressed to Saint Nick.

The change came after an employee discovered last year a registered sex offender in Maryland was trying to answer children’s letters.

The U.S. Postal Service pulled the plug after deciding meeting additional privacy and safety rules would be too costly, said Richard Maher, spokesman for the Postal Service in Southern California.

The Post Office Processing Center in Valencia, which sorts letters from northern Los Angeles County, has already received a few hundred letters addressed to Santa, said Alicia Delgadillo, the center’s consumer affairs manager.

Letters that don’t have return addresses, or are not answered by a post office employee, are sent to the dead letter office in Atlanta, where they are shredded, Delgadillo said.

Kids have been sending letters since the summer, Delgadillo said. She has received a few hundred already this year, her office gets about 10 to 12 letters a day, she said.

The post office estimates its Southern California offices received about 30,000 letters last year, Maher said.

Delgadillo said she hopes she can answer all of the letters with return addresses sent to the office — she’s already begun assigning volunteers from her office.

Some post offices in northern California are still running the program, Maher said. Those post offices have had to add stricter privacy standards to do so. All personal information, including the child’s last name and address have been removed.

There is a chance the program could come back to Los Angeles next year, Maher said.

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