Operation Santa under way at post office

December 4, 2009 (CHICAGO) During this season of giving, postal officials are hoping volunteers will come forward to answer letters that children mail to Santa.

Workers were feeling the holiday spirit Friday at the main branch of the post office in Chicago as they were drawing attention to an annual tradition called Operation Santa. The post office was also revealing four festive stamps.

A group of very cute children from a nearby day care center stopped by the post office to drop off their letters to Santa, and they got a chance to meet the man himself. Dozens of children, ages 2 to 5, bombarded Santa with their Christmas lists.

Bins filled with letters were on display as part of the Operation Santa program, which has gone on for at least three years. Letters addressed to Santa are intercepted by postal workers. They, in turn, sort through the letters, determine which ones are written by people in need, and then display them out for customers to come along and choose one or a few to buy things on the Christmas list and fulfill those holiday wishes.

Workers say many of the letters are very heart-wrenching, and the program gets a great response every year.

"My sister and I do it together. We're in the position where we don't need a lot of things for Christmas. So, we would rather be spending our money, buying some gifts for some people who could really use some things," said Sue Walter, a post office customer.

Operation Santa gets about 40,000 letters every year, and about 40 percent of those letters are answered.

Participating customers are asked to return to the post office and mail the gifts after they purchase them.

Operation Santa wraps up December 18.

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