Since at least 1912, Cincinnatians have been adopting families in need by answering their letters to Santa.
Operation Santa is back for 2020, but rather than searching through letters at the Dalton Avenue post office, Cincinnati Postmaster Karen Garber says would-be gift givers will adopt families online.
"In previous years we've really had a lot of traffic in the main post office to pick the letters, so we want to make sure that everybody knows that we're still going to do the things that we did in the past, it's just going to be a different way of doing it," Garber says.
By going digital, Garber expects to reach more children in need across the country. She says it will also provide an extra measure of privacy for families receiving gifts.
A few years ago, the USPS began piloting this newer, digital Operation Santa program, though Cincinnati continued with its legacy of going to the Dalton Ave. location and perusing letters. Even without the COVID-19 pandemic, Garber expects Cincinnati would have shifted to the new, national model.
Letters are still vetted, and people will drop off their purchased and wrapped packages at any post office. Gift-givers can start looking over letters and adopting families on Dec. 4.
Children are already sending their letters to Santa. All letters to Santa will reach him, Garber says. However, his official USPS address is:
123 Elf Road
North Pole 88888
"I've (been) reading some of the letters and I'm very humbled by what these kids say," Garber explains. "I think that this year especially, with families in such an awkward, hard position, that the more we can bring light to what Operation Santa does, the more successful the program will be."
The IFC Films documentary Dear Santa about the USPS' Operation Santa program debuts Dec. 4, too. It details the 100-year-old history of Operation Santa and its mission.
This article was first published Nov. 16.