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Letters from Santa
Postal workers deliver each wish list with care
By Elizabeth Celms
Mercer Island Reporter
Mercer Island mail carrier Jesse Rainwater smiles every time he receives a letter addressed “To Santa” on his daily route. This month alone, Rainwater has sifted through about 30 letters from Island children. Some are written in crayon, others are addressed to the North Pole. Many envelopes are decorated with drawings: snowmen, Rudolph, “I love you’s” and hearts.
“They are usually written in kids’ handwriting,” Rainwater said. “And then parents write a few things, like the return address or ‘North Pole’ underneath Santa’s name.”
Every year, Mercer Island mail carriers sift through hundreds of “Dear Santa” letters, most during the holiday season. Employees at the Mercer Island Post Office carefully bundle up these handwritten envelopes and send them on to the Consumer Affairs office in Seattle. The letters are then forwarded to Santa’s helpers, volunteer “elves” recruited by the Postal Service to read and reply to every child’s letter on behalf of Santa Claus himself.
Even if the letters don’t have the correct postage for travel to the North Pole — or no postage at all — the U.S. Postal Service makes sure that every letter continues on its way to Santa’s elves.
“These letters never go back as ‘undeliverable,’” said Mercer Island postal worker Trevor Denpsey. “We always pass them on.”
He and his fellow employees treat each letter to Santa with as much care as any other parcel that comes through, making sure the envelopes are sent swiftly to the Consumer Affairs office in Seattle so they can be delivered to Santa’s helpers before the Dec. 21 deadline.
Dana Blakeslee, manager of Consumer Affairs, said the office receives thousands of Santa letters throughout the year. Even if a letter arrives after the Dec. 21 Christmas deadline, Santa’s helpers will still reply, she added.
“Just today we had a shipment of some 500 letters,” Blakeslee said. “Usually the bulk comes in sometime after October and before Christmas Eve.”
Just like all employees of the United States Postal Service, Santa’s helpers must go through a background check and interview process before receiving the job. Once Consumer Affairs has approved an aspiring helper (after getting the final OK from Santa himself, of course) the volunteer has the honor of opening and reading each letter passed on to him and writing back on behalf of Santa. It’s a big job: carefully reading through a wish list of toys, checking whether each child has been naughty or nice, and resisting the temptation to eat treats often sent to Santa along with the letter.
“The thing that tickles me is what they put inside — all sorts of little presents and cookies for Santa. Sometimes the children even draw their own stamp or use Easter seals. It’s so adorable,” said Blakeslee, who has spoken with many of Santa’s helpers long-distance over the phone from the North Pole. Often times, Mr. Claus will write back to the children himself, she added.
Islander Kara Brodman has been sending letters from her 9-year-old twins, Jackson and Shelby, off to the North Pole for several years now. Every December she drops her children’s letters into the post and, sure enough, the children get a response before Christmas.
“It’s really cool because I know that someone is actually reading my letters,” said Shelby Brodman, looking over the letter her brother got from Santa two years ago.
“Dear Jackson,” the letter reads, “Thank you for your wonderful letter. You are in our thoughts. The elves are hard at work in the workshop making so many wonderful things for Christmas for all my special little boys and girls. Sometimes if you listen very, very hard, you can hear them whistle while they work. Merry Christmas! Santa.”
Brodman said she is amazed that, given all the work Santa’s helpers have at this time of year, they manage to respond to each and every child.
“I think the helpers are just wonderful. This is the busiest time of the year, and they’re taking their time to make Christmas magical for kids,” she said.
The mother of two saves every letter that her children receive from Santa. It’s a magical Christmas memory she knows they will never want to forget, especially when grown.
This year, Brodman’s children are still waiting for that special envelope from the North Pole. They are sure it will show up any day now. And so is Brodman.
“I can’t wait to get to the mailbox and see what it says,” she said. “I can’t wait to see the look on their faces.”