USPS Operation Santa making needy kids' sad letters to Santa available online for first time

The U.S. Postal Service has just launched a new website putting letters to Santa from needy kids online and making them available to the public to adopt.


But not enough letters from low income families are coming in this year.


"The letters asking Santa for a warm coat, new shoes, and a favorite toy can be read online this year, and volunteers have been quickly snapping them up. Demand is huge, and more letters from low-income families need to be mailed to Santa's new address ASAP," says Patrick Reynolds, who runs, a nonprofit that supports the USPS program. Kids and families may write to Santa at 123 Elf Road, North Pole 88888, and should mail their letters by December 14th.


Reynolds says, “We think it's okay for children to know there are volunteers out there who want to help Santa by sending a few extra gifts to kids whose parents don't have much. Of course, after scanning and posting children’s letters on the USPS website, postal staff always send every letter on to Santa so kids will get his gifts, too.”


Be An Elf is a tax-exempt charity which supports USPS Operation Santa® by annually recruiting hundreds of new volunteers; by encouraging media to cover the story; and by providing those seeking assistance with tips for effective letter writing. Be An Elf is not affiliated with the USPS®, but offers an excellent guide to volunteers and to those seeking assistance. The tax-exempt non-profit charity gets a major in-kind grant from Google for free advertising, which they use to promote the USPS program.


Parents who are worried there won't be enough gifts for their children this year will find great tips at Volunteers who want to learn more should start with the home page at and learn How to be an Elf.


In recent years the traditional walk-in program has been available in less than two dozen cities, but this year the letters may be adopted online from anywhere, and gifts can be mailed from 19,000 postal branches, thanks to a new USPS website,


To protect children’s privacy, USPS ® staff redact last names and addresses from their letters. A coded address label is printed out with each letter. Gifts must be mailed by December 20th, in time for delivery by Christmas.


“Some Operation Santa volunteers feel alone and sad over the holidays, and find comfort and inspiration volunteering for this program,” says’s Patrick Reynolds. “By adopting a letter, they catch the true spirit of the holidays. They know they’ll put a smile on the face of a needy child on Christmas morning.”


Reynolds is a grandson of tobacco company founder RJ Reynolds, but became a smoke-free advocate after his father, RJ Reynolds, Jr., died from smoking. Patrick received the Lifetime Achievement award in 2015 from President Obama for his work against Big Tobacco; his bio is at is an invaluable resource for first-time volunteers and helps parents and kids seeking extra gifts for the holidays write effective letters to Santa.


Sample tips:

  • suggests smart gifts, like backpacks, school supplies, new (not used) clothes, books, and a small gift for the mothers, whom the site says are sometimes feeling sad over the holidays.
  • Get the word out to low income families with kids, and let them know they can write to Santa’s volunteers for extra gifts. Put up flyers to spread the word. Post them in local churches, on community bulletin boards, in markets in low-income neighborhoods, in orphanages, youth detention homes, Child Protective Services offices, a local foster care office, and even prisons. Always talk to staff first to tell them about the flyer, and ask permission to post it up. Write this at the top, so no one pulls the flyer down: Take a photo of this flyer as a reminder. Here’s how to get extra gifts for your kids from Santa’s volunteer elves!    
  • Volunteers should pay attention to the letters from families and parents of children too little to write. They often list their children’s clothing and shoe sizes, and that’s a sign they truly need help for the holidays.
  • Organize a team and share the cost and the fun. Give a holiday party at which friends, co-workers and neighbors are invited to bring gifts for kids and wrap them over Christmas cheer.
  • Be An Elf has just published a new Plan for Companies for employees who are interested in volunteering.
  • It may be possible to adopt multiple letters, and simply mail gift cards from Target or Costco, and let the Moms do the shopping for their families.


The US Postal Service ® has not missed a year since first offering the children’s letters in 1912. Learn more at The new USPS website where the public may adopt letters online is