How One Nonprofit Helps Santa (and the Post Office)
BeAnElf.org, an ongoing nonprofit campaign, has encouraged the public to respond to letters to Santa Claus for more than a decade—in the process helping to draw attention to the U.S. Postal Service's century-old Operation Santa program.
For more than a century, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has relied on volunteers to solve a problem that can best be described as amusing: the phenomenon of young children writing to Santa Claus, address: North Pole.
Obviously, a lot of letters are sent each year—and someone has to answer them. (Santa’s just one guy.) And USPS hasn’t always had an easy go of managing all those letters, either, especially with the financial troubles that have hamstrung the federal agency.
Fortunately, though, there have always been nonprofits to help USPS, most recently BeAnElf.org, a group that has driven public interest to the obscure Operation Santa program, with a focus on helping low-income children, since its 2004 launch. While BeAnElf is not officially tied to USPS, it has actively taken part in the initiative and has also worked to promote the endeavor in the media and other outlets.
The organization is run by “Chief Elf” Patrick Reynolds, a grandson of R.J. Reynolds, who later became an antismoking advocate and founded the The Foundation for a Smokefree America. Regarding his current work with BeAnElf.org, Reynolds noted that the approach is often just as beneficial to those responding to the letters to Santa as it is for those who receive gifts based on the letters sent.
“Some Operation Santa volunteers feel alone and sad over the holidays, and find comfort and inspiration volunteering for this program. Others have families and bring their kids to teach them the meaning of Christmas,” Reynolds explained in a news release.
This year, BeAnElf posted on Facebook a few of the letters accepted. The organization, through donations, says it plans to pay for $100 gift cards at stores such as Target, Costco, or Walmart for each letter chosen. Additionally, the group also encourages the public to visit participating USPS locations and write a letter—and perhaps offer a gift to a child in need.
Wanna learn more? Responses are still being accepted at some post offices; you can get more information on Operation Santa at the USPS website.