"Chief Elf" Kimberly Davis sits behind a folding table with cheery holiday decorations, a row of folders spread out before her. Inside are letters asking Santa for a little extra help.
The U.S. Post Office's annual Operation Santa is underway. Each year, employees comb through hundreds of requests from families in need of assistance making Christmas happen for their children.
Kimberly Davis is in her second year running the program out of the Dalton Avenue post office. She organizes the letters, then employees pair wish lists with anyone who's willing to help out.
Volunteers "adopt" a family - divided by number of children - shop for the gifts, wrap them and return them to the Dalton Avenue Post Office. The week of Christmas, letter carriers play Santa's helper by distributing the packages to the families along their routes.
Families can provide as much or as little information as they like, and Davis vets each letter and family.
"We remove all personal information from the letter," Davis says. "The only thing the public will see is what the people are asking for, their story, their sizes and the ages of the children."
The program dates back to 1912 when the postmaster general officially authorized local postmasters to let employees and the public reply to the stacks of letters sent to Santa via the Postal Service.
Davis says letters began arriving as early as September this year. Some are written by parents; some by children.
As of Wednesday morning, Davis had received 220 letters and had 50 families adopted.
Not every one gets matched with a Secret Santa. "No, Santa doesn't get to everybody," Davis acknowledges. "It's a letter adoption and it's the public that comes in, so not everybody that sends a letter in gets adopted.
"We did pretty good last year," she says. "I had an overabundance of letters - it was over 700 - and I was able to get, I think, 232 families adopted."
Dealing with all those letters can be hard emotionally. Davis focuses on the happy parts, like the thank yous and cute drawings some children include.
"I just pray that everybody is being blessed at some point in their life and they don't have to deal with this all the time, just a little bit."
Operation Santa began Nov. 13 and the last day to adopt a family is Dec. 18.
How Can You Help?
Anyone who'd like to participate can peruse the letters and choose one or more. After purchasing and wrapping the gifts on your list, you return them to the post office and pay for the postage to have them mailed to the recipients.
Letters may be reviewed in the lobby of the Cincinnati Main Post Office, 1623 Dalton Ave., through Tuesday, Dec. 18.
Hours are Monday - Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
All gifts must be returned for mailing by 2 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 19.
Questions may be directed to 513-684-5133.