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A charitable Christmas activity

Every year, millions of children mail Santa Claus their wish lists. Many of these letters end up at the post office. Some locations will make these letters available to anyone who would like to fulfill some Christmas wishes. You still have time!!

The Chicago Letters to Santa program began in the late 1960's under the direction of Postmaster Henry W. McGee. He encouraged postal employees to “adopt” children and families in need. As word spread, the program was opened up to the public. Many large companies come in and pick up hundreds of letters to distribute among their employees.

In Chicago, Letters to Santa are available at:

Cardiss Collins Post Office
433 W. Harrison
Second floor retail lobby
Chicago, Illinois 60607
Santa's Hotline: 312-983-TOYS (8697)

Here are some examples of the letters we pulled this year.

You an click on all images for bigger versions. Kindly ignore the notations Kim made while at Target buying presents.

Note: We usually pick letters in Spanish, as Kim is active in the Spanish-speaking community.

Text:

"Santa, I want a High School Musical 3 house or a blue or pink Ipot (sic) nano, a Super Princess Peach game, Gabriela & Troy dolls, that's it but you don't have to bring everything, just what you can."

Click images for larger version:

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We liked this one for two reasons. First, she really went to town with the coloring. Even the envelope (not picured) was colored front and back. Second, she wrote the letter on the back of her spelling test, on which she scored a perfect 10 out of 10, perhaps wanting to give Santa evidence that she had been good.

Text:

"I, Kelvin, am 7 years old and I want that Mr. Santa Claus brings me some wrestlers called Ple H or Umaba and Rato or Mystery King or Jeff. I would be very grateful. And my little sister likes Pricce (princess?) or a princess bag. I would be very pleased and may God keep you and bless you. I will be waiting for you to read this letter."

Click images for larger version:

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We love that he used an airmail envelope; Santa does live in the North Pole, after all.

Text:

"I am Sol I am 5 years old and I have 2 sisters, Lupe 13 years old and April 18 months I would like for Santa Claus to bring me a Barbie for me and my sisters and my Mami, anything."

Click images for larger version:

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Her family portrait is great, as is the fact that she requested dolls for her and her two sisters, and for Mom, "anything."

Text:

"Hi Santa Claus, This Christmas I am going to be very good to see if you can bring me a present I want a Moonsand and if you don't know Moonsand is at K-Mart and if not buy me socks and underwear. I am 7 years old. Merry Christmas. My brother is Jony and we are twins."

"My name is Jonathan Gonzalez I am 7 years old and I have a brother whose name is Emmanuel Gonzalez we are twins because we were born at the same time I want to ask you for a Pix-O and if you don't know what it is bring me what you can and if you want, clothes too, I'm a size 7-8 I saw this toy in K-Mart, Pix-O. Merry Christmas."

Click images for larger version:

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These are twins, each requesting something for himself but mentioning his brother. Emmanuel lets Santa know that Moonsand is available in K-Mart.

Text:

"Hi Santa my name is Lupita I'm 5 years old and I have a little sister who's 1 year old her name is Sury in this letter I ask you for presents for me and for her, Dora dolls and if you can two Dora coats for her and me. Thank you very much Santa, I hope you hear me. Merry Christmas."

Click images for larger version:

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Again, this 5-year-old girl requests Dora dolls for her and her 1-year-old sister. Looking at the writing, though, it was likely a parent who actually produced this letter and not a 5-year-old.

The letters that Kim included with the presents she mailed to each household, written in Spanish "from Santa himself," praised the children for their artwork or for thinking about their siblings; encouraged them to continue using and valuing the Spanish language; and included her contact information (Santa referring to her as "his friend who helped him write this letter") at the university. She also encouraged parents to contact her now or in the future with any questions about the college application process - many immigrant parents have no idea how to navigate this.

Next year, we would like to pursue either setting up an online Santa presence to match needy children with donors, or scan as many letters from the Chicago post office as we can and then provide an online donor effort. Or both. I am also debating whether to put "Atheist Families" on the return shipping labels of the presents we send, to create positive PR for atheists (that is, to counter ideas that we are loathsome monsters who eat babies and worship the devil... in fact we sometimes do nice things for the community).

I think that is an awesome idea. :)

Sorry I saw this post a few months too late LOL.

One thing my husband and I did--and had our own two kids participate--was contacting the Foster Angels group in our town that coordinates families and other groups to assist in buying holiday gifts for foster children. My husband and I have enough money to buy our own foster kids gifts, and so wanted to give back. We asked our two kids to help us pick out some things to donate for kids their age, and also bought clothes and pajamas to give as gifts per the sizes and wishes on the foster gift request tags.

Even though we are atheists, we recognize that lots of people here see Christmas as not only a religious holiday, but a time to share and give of what we have. I don't see any harm in giving back to the community and helping others celebrate a holiday that is so important to them in a meaningful way.

Great idea. :) Also would be good for Chanukah gifts as well.

m