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.

        Where to write to Santa


Teen dies after SUV runs down Bengals fans
- Mail for Santa will be opened
Group ready to advise police
Hazmat training reveals dangers
Who gets hazmat training?
Grants boost teachers
Other local winners
RADEL: Bengals a tenant, not owner
Meteors reward faithful stargazers
Naked fan runs onto field at Bengals game
UC strike issues similar to past
You Asked For It
Zone change considered
Local Digest
Pianos provide a thrill
Vet, 75, to get diploma
Good News: Students display patriotism
Ky. group seeks big boost in cigarette tax
Thieves make free with signs
Outdoor activity options expand
Ohio justice says talks didn't taint school case
Tiny fish subject of pollution case