WASHINGTON: The U.S. Postal Service’s Operation Santa campaign is celebrating its 108th year by encouraging nationwide participation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Postal Service started Operation Santa in 1912 to help less fortunate children enjoy opening presents and creating holiday memories.
In 2018, the program went online in seven cities while keeping its in-person legacy programs in New York City and Chicago.
Last year, Operation Santa was available online in 17 cities, and more than 11,000 packages were sent to those who had their letter adopted.
This year, the Postal Service was forced to change its strategy. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program is expanding nationwide online while discontinuing its in-person participation.
“COVID-19 resulted in job losses, temporary unemployment and, sadly, the loss of family and friends," said Kimberly Frum, USPS senior public relations representative. "Couple that with devastation from natural disasters, and it’s easy to see why the USPS Operation Santa program is more important than ever.”
Moving to an online platform also expands the numbers of families in need who can send a letter and potential “Santas,” who can fulfill a wish, even from across the country.
Outreach efforts for Operation Santa have varied, from signage at post offices and earned media in publications like The New York Times and USA Today to Postal Posts blogs. An informational cartoon video was uploaded to all USPS social media accounts where an elf encourages participants to send their letters to Santa.
“Our field communications offices give a local angle to the program for communities' local media, and we have organizations like the Postal Customer Councils we work with throughout the year,” Frum said.
Communications consultancy MRM has worked with the USPS to create the digital platform and website for several years.
Starting on December 4, letters will be available for nationwide adoption at USPSOperationSanta.com. Potential adopters are vetted through a short registration and ID-verification process before they are allowed to reach through letters and pick one — or more — to adopt.
Secret Santas can ship gifts via a post office location, which allows both requesting and responding families to remain anonymous. All letters are redacted of personally identifiable information.
Letters will be accepted until December 15. To participate as a possible recipient of gifts, write a letter and mail it in a stamped envelope with a return address to Santa's official workshop at:
123 Elf Road