Sad Santa Letters Tell of Economic Woes, USPS Says

Operation Santa chief says more letters asking for coats, food, money for bills.

ByABC News
December 16, 2010, 12:31 PM

Dec. 16, 2010— -- With just nine days to go until Santa shimmies down those chimneys, letters to the big, jolly guy are coming in fast and furious.

But this year, mixed in with the letters asking for toys and video games are an increasing number of requests for warm coats, food and help paying the electric bill to keep the heat on.

"The common theme this year seems to be a single mom with young kids, the parent has left -- they don't know who the father is, or the father left -- and they can't pay the bills," said Pete Fontana, head of the United States Postal Service Operation Santa in New York.

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It's Fontana's post office in midtown Manhattan -- right across the street from Penn Station -- where most of the letters to Santa arrive each year from around the world. He's expecting about 2 million letters this year.

Post offices in two dozen other locations across the country also accept letters. Most are addressed simply to "Santa Claus, North Pole."

Though many considered last year to be the toughest financially since the economic downturn began, Fontana said, it appears that more people are struggling this year, judging both from the letters and the decreased number of volunteers who sign up to fulfill some of the writers' wishes.

"We had one little girl write in and say all she wants is a winter coat for her mom. Nothing for herself," he said. "We had another letter for grandparents and they wanted to put a turkey with the trimmings for the holiday dinner ... but they couldn't even get their medicine."

Other letters are similarly heartbreaking.

Eight-year-old Skayla told Santa that her mother doesn't have a job and her father lives in the Dominican Republic, leaving it up to her grandmother to buy everything. She asked for clothes and shoes for herself, her 7-year-old sister and their infant brother, even including their sizes.

"Thanks Santa," she wrote," I LOVE YOU."

Ruth, a single mother of three, made a similar request for clothes and shoes "and a bit of toys (IF YOU CAN.)"

"I'm trying to get help as soon as possible," she wrote. "I'm desperate for help. I don't work and I barely have money."

But for Shadybeth, a little girl living with her ill grandmother, a Merry Christmas would mean a permanent place to live.

"Maybe that's why you don't remember me Santa. We still living in another shelter," she wrote. "My grandmother is very sick and we need our place so she could rest."

She ended her letter with a postscript: "Santa Please try to help this time. God Bless you."

Kati, a 13-year-old living in the projects in the Bronx in New York City asked Santa this year for an iPod touch or jewelry.

"Santa, I have been a good girl, I do the right thing even if stuff happen," she wrote. "I love my family and I'm very grateful."