Usually, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day is filled with stress, shopping, and giving back. And now, if you're looking for a creative way to spread some holiday cheer this year, you can help the U.S. Postal Service respond to kids' letters to Santa. But, depending on where you live, you might need to hurry up if you want to get involved.
The USPS is celebrating its 105th year of Operation Santa, a program in which postal employees, volunteers, organizations, or the general public can respond to a child's letter to Santa by "adopting" that letter. All locations that offer the public opportunities to participate in Operation Santa adhere to strict privacy policies, and "any member of the public choosing to adopt a letter may simply respond in writing or if they choose grant the wish, a decision that is left to the individual," according to the USPS website.
Basically, just because you're a grown-up who knows that Santa isn't real anymore, it doesn't mean that you can't still share a little magic this holiday season. Because unfortunately, there are quite a few kids out there who won't be waking up to any Christmas surprises this year, and a letter or small gift from "Santa" could be all they get.
Truly, children in the United States are actually struggling more than you might think. Even though America is ahead of the curve in many ways, the amount of American families suffering is quite staggering. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty:
About 15 million children in the United States – 21% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold, a measurement that has been shown to underestimate the needs of families. Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses. Using this standard, 43% of children live in low-income families.
While the USPS' Operation Santa isn't able to pinpoint those children living in poverty, it's still an important program to help bring joy to those who might need it.
What makes Operation Santa even more magical? According to Good Housekeeping, "This year, there will be a special focus on letters sent by children and families in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands." That's right, families who have been devastated by this year's horrific hurricane season will get first priority in the USPS' program.
Speaking to PIX11, Allen Tanko, marketing manager for the USPS, explained why the program was expanding this year. "We want everyone to have that opportunity to help somebody who they may not even know have a great Christmas and a great holiday season," he said.
And this year, Operation Santa has gone digital, with a new website where volunteers can browse letters, and write a response and/or send a gift to the original letter writer. However, this digital platform is only available to those who are able to drop off their letter at the USPS location in New York City.
While Operation Santa locations are all over the United States, the deadline to participate and reach out to a local child is drawing near. The earliest deadline to adopt is Dec. 8, so if you want to help out, you might want to go check in with your local post office and see if there's still time.
The world can sometimes seem to be a never-ending cycle of bad news and shocking headlines, but the holidays are the perfect time to remember that there are things to be thankful for and ways to spread some much-needed holiday cheer.
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