Mittens under the Christmas tree would be a miracle for some Chicago families, some postal workers said Wednesday morning.
Within the past two weeks, U.S. Postal Service workers received more than 10,000 letters addressed to Santa Claus from needy families across the Midwest, said letter carrier Debora Gipson.
Many asked not for the most popular toys or high-tech games but for clothes, shoes and even food.
“My mother is a single parent and full-time student,” read one letter from a 16-year-old Lane Technical High School student. “She works when she can and every penny she makes goes to bills… My little brother doesn’t understand right now, so I always tell her don’t worry about me and just make sure he’s happy.”
Each year, U.S. Postal Service workers take letters such as this and ask community members and corporations to adopt a family as part of its 101-year-old Letters to Santa program in 17 cities across the country.
On Wednesday, Post Office executives officially launched the program at the main branch, 443 W. Harrison St. About 50 children, ranging in age from 6-weeks to 6-years-old from Corporate Childcare Consultants Learning daycare center joined staff and Santa Claus for the event.
Mark Reynolds, communications program specialist for the post office, explained that the program allows community members and organizations to pick up a letter from the main post office and send a gift. The letters are separated into bins and categorized by gender as well as the number of children in a family. It also has letters in Spanish.
Employees from the Microtek International Inc, a computer training company, were there to pick up 40 letters for their colleagues. Rachel Risch and Blair Silvensky said the company is “scaling back their Christmas party” this year to, instead, use the money for needy families.
“Our CEO actually does this with his family every year and so it’s become something near and dear to him, and he wanted to bring all of us in,” Silvensky said. Risch explained each employee is allotted $100 per letter; in total, $4,000 will be donated.
Reynolds said the requests have been climbing year after year. And it is expected that this year will trend in the same way.
Last year, about 20,000 letters were collected; half of which were not answered. “There are always letters that don’t get answered,” said Reynolds.