Monday, November 19, 2001
Mail for Santa will be opened
But keep cookies at home, Postal Service requests
By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Memo to children sending letters to Santa Claus this year: Don't send cookies. Security concerns after this year's anthrax scares have prompted changes for a traditional U.S. Postal Service program that uses volunteers to answer Santa letters and arrange gifts for needy families.
Officials warn that letters could be delayed or destroyed if they come with suspicious lumps or lack return addresses.
On letters to Santa, we're recommending that children definitely use a return address and avoid putting anything in the envelope like cookies or candy canes or even hay for reindeer like they've done in the past, said Mark Saunders, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Washington, D.C.
That gives the perception of a suspicious envelope, and we're trying to keep Santa's helpers happy, Mr. Saunders said.
At the main Cincinnati post office in Queensgate, the marketing department normally handles about 2,000 annual Santa letters from children in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
While most letters seek toys or a return message from Santa, hundreds ask for basic necessities. Individuals or companies can adopt these needy children to fulfill their wishes.
This year, however, the 14-year-old holiday tradition will be handled by a different group of volunteers and will start about 2 1/2 weeks behind schedule, said Kim Kane, a Postal Service spokesman.
The reason: although recent tests found no signs of contamination at Cincinnati or Dayton, Ohio, postal processing and distribution centers, anthrax scares at other postal centers have prompted security changes.
Loretta Buchanan of Southgate doesn't think the policy change will spoil her children's fun this Christmas. The children, ages 7, 6 and 2, sent letters to Santa last year, but they left the reindeer food in the yard.
Ms. Buchanan wasn't surprised by the change in policy for letters to Santa. Her daughter's Brownie troop already learned that sending generic letters and packages to servicemen and women might not be a good idea because of anthrax worries.
Letters from needy children must be received by Nov. 22. Sponsors must return the wrapped gifts by Dec. 17.
Last year, Cincinnati letter carriers delivered food, clothing, toys and appliances to 225 needy families. Postcards with a special Santa cancellation also were sent to more than 1,700 children who merely sought a letter from Santa.
This year, we already have 130 letters requesting assistance, Ms. Kane said.
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