CHICAGO (WLS) -- An annual holiday tradition at the post office kicked off Thursday called "Operation Santa" where thousands of letters from children are waiting for Chicagoans who volunteer to be Santa's helpers.
For more than 100 years, letters to Santa Claus have come through the postal service. The letters are from families who don't have enough to have presents under the tree.
"There's a lot of letters, there's a lot of people that need help and just want a nice Christmas," Lisa Abu-Bakr, someone answering a Santa letter, said.
For more than 60 years, Chicagoans have stepped up in Operation Santa to help grant some of those wishes. Mary Hall is returning for a second year with her co-workers.
"We had a team of about 30 people, we got really into it and we had a lot of big boxes going to a couple families last year. It was very exciting everyone really enjoyed it," Hall said.
Close to 100,000 letters arrive at Chicago's Main Post Office, at 433 W. Harrison Street, almost every holiday season. They're separated into simple bins so volunteer Santa helpers can easily find the ones that tug at their heart.
"We found a letter where a 12-year-old wrote it and he included wishes for his two younger siblings and at the end he said, "If you can't fulfill this for me, Santa, please consider my two younger siblings,'" Lisa Marks said.
"When I see my boys in some of these letters, that's what really rings true to me. We get to help other people make happy Christmases for their kids," Jaji Hammer said.
While Santa himself made a visit to help kick off this holiday tradition his wish is for enough generous Chicagoans to help keep the magic alive for those families who may be less fortunate.
"Really grateful that the postal service does something like this. It's a way for people that are in need to get a little bit of hope and a way for those of us who want to, to do something good," Matt Harrison said.
You can read the letters at the Main Post Office downtown from until December 20. Once you choose the letter, you just have get the gifts, and bring them back to the post office to send to the family.
Letters for Operation Santa
Main Post Office
433 W. Harrison Street
Monday, Dec. 5 through Saturday Dec. 17
7:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 18 through Tuesday Dec. 20
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Operation Santa kicks off to help families in need