NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. Postal Service in New York City has launched its 102nd annual "Operation Santa" letter-writing program — with security measures in place to protect the mostly needy children.
At Manhattan's James A. Farley Post Office on Tuesday, members of the public started responding to letters from children describing their holiday dream list — often just necessities. Volunteers must bring an ID and fill out a form that allows them to read mail addressed to Santa.
Twenty major U.S. cities are participating in the program, with kids asking Santa for warm coats, food, clothes, and shoes — plus toys. The gifts are then mailed to families. Names and addresses are not visible to donors.
One desperate mother wrote: "I would be very grateful if you can help us out by sending my children's some gifts, so they have something to open on Christmas Day."
In another letter, a 13-year-old named Franklin says he has two sisters and a brother. "I just wanted to ask if you can help my mom with some presents for my family," the teen writes.
Children's Santa letters may be picked up at postal branches in 20 U.S. cities this year, including New York, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco, Boston, Orlando, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Houston and Los Angeles.
In addition, a website dubbed Be An Elf offers information.
"There's no middle man or charity," says the site. "It's micro-philanthropy, direct from you to a child, when you volunteer in this way."
The Postal Service in New York City gets at least 300,000 requests each year, but only about 10 percent are answered, officials say.
Be An Elf: http://beanelf.org