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Calling all elves: Operation Santa is back

mailbox labeled north pole in foreground, holiday lights on house in background
infinyd photo

The United States Post Office and Santa are looking for a few good elves.

Cincinnatians have been helping Santa and the postal service provide gifts for children since at least 1912. Last year, Cincinnati merged its annual letter-answering campaign with the national Operation Santa program. This year will be the same.

"Ohio was in the top six in the country for most letters adopted," reports Naddia Dhalai, USPS Strategic Communications spokesperson. "Over 23,000 letters were adopted (nationally) last year... a lot of great, generous people in Ohio adopted and helped out kids last year."

Specifically, the Buckeye State reached 1,056 children, Dhalai says.

Prior to the pandemic, employees at Cincinnati's Dalton Ave. post office would organize letters sent to Santa from local children and families in need at the holidays. Volunteers could come into the lobby, peruse the letters and sign-up to fulfill wish lists. In 2020, Cincinnati joined the USPS's national Operation Santa program and the process went digital.

Cincinnati Postmaster Karen Garber told WVXU last year she expected the move would help reach more children nationwide. It turns out she was right.

"(As) we were uploading (letters), people were adopting them and we were running out of letters," Dhalai says. "Letters adopted in 2019 were 12,000, and then in 2020 it was 23,000, so it doubled."

The goal this year is to get all the letters in on time and adopted.

"I encourage people to register and read the letters - they're really heartwarming," she says. "Some kids just want socks; some kids need a coat or something really basic. If people have the time and they have the money and they can afford it, it's a great way to help out in the local communities."

How it works

Letters to Santa should be mailed to the North Pole. Here's the address:

Santa Claus
123 Elf Road
North Pole, 88888

Don't worry if you've already sent your letter to a different address, the USPS assures WVXU that all letters addressed to Santa will be delivered. However, letters need to be postmarked by Dec. 10, 2021. Make sure to include your return address!

Postal workers will help Santa screen, sort and upload the letters to USPSOperationSanta.com.

Beginning Nov. 29, prospective elves can go online, sign-up and begin perusing letters, and adopt one or more children or families. Once you agree to adopt, you simply purchase and wrap the items, package them for shipping and go to any post office to ship them off. USPS will provide a QR code so the recipients remain anonymous for safety purposes.

The deadline to ship packages is Dec. 18.

How to get a letter postmarked from the North Pole:

The USPS offers these instructions if a child in your life would like a letter postmarked from the North Pole.

  1. Have the child write a letter to Santa and place it in an envelope addressed to: Santa Claus, North Pole.
  2. Write a personalized response to the child's letter and sign it "From Santa."
  3. Insert both letters into an envelope, and address it to the child.
  4. Add the return address: SANTA, NORTH POLE, to the envelope.
  5. Ensure a First-Class Mail stamp is affixed to the envelope.
  6. Place the complete envelope into a larger envelope, with appropriate postage, and address it to:

ANCHORAGE AK 99530-9998

USPS recommends sending your letters by Dec. 10. Santa’s helpers in Anchorage, AK, will take care of the rest!

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.