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Elf Shortage! Not enough volunteers this year to answer USPS Letters to Santa from needy kids - Public can't find where to volunteer for Operation Santa after seeing news coverage fills the need, provides volunteers with a list of USPS letters to Santa postal branches

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Elf shortage! There aren't enough volunteers from the public this year to adopt letters to Santa Claus sent by needy kids. Their letters plead with Santa for "a warm coat," "food or clothes," or "shoes for my older brother," but many are likely to go unanswered.

In 17 major cities, the US Postal Service is now offering people letters to Santa written by low income children; volunteers may mail their gifts directly to the child who wrote to Santa. Postal staff say there are many thousands of letters and a need for more volunteers to come in and read and respond to them.

But many eager volunteers can't easily find a postal branch to participate in after seeing news coverage about the program. Online searches, even at and Google, do not readily result in the current 2013 directory of Operation Santa branches. Because of this, and the quality of Be An Elf's website, in 2012 the Today Show gave the site out at the end of their story on the USPS letters to Santa program.

Be An Elf is a much-needed resource letting the public know where they can volunteer for USPS Operation letters to Santa. The site offers an easy-to-find, current list of participating USPS Operation Santa branches, along with the hours of operation, tips for volunteering, and photos.

Children's Santa letters may be picked up at a single postal branch in 17 major cities this year, including Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. In 2011, 75 branches participated; in 2012, 25 branches offered letters; and in 2013, only 17. It's a perfect storm: the Postal Service has lost billions, and December is their busiest time of year. On the plus side, 2013 marks the 101st anniversary of the USPS Letters to Santa program, started by the USPS in 1912. is the best available online guide to Operation Letters to Santa. The website offers an easy-to-find list of this year's branches, images of Santa letters, tips for buying gifts for needy kids, such as backpacks and school supplies, and suggests a small gift for Moms, who the site notes are "often single and living below the poverty line." Be An Elf smartly recommends that volunteers share the work and the fun, and give parties at which friends wrap gifts together. It notes that Target or Kmart gift cards are always an option for volunteers who adopt too many letters.

Some people feel alone and sad over the holidays, and find comfort being part of this program. Others have families and bring their kids along to teach them the real meaning of Christmas.

Be An Elf's home page notes, "There's no middle man or charity. It's micro-philanthropy, direct from you to a child, when you volunteer in this way. You'll catch the true spirit of the holidays, and put smiles on the faces of needy kids on Christmas morning." The non-profit group was founded in 2004 by Patrick Reynolds, a longtime volunteer for USPS Letters to Santa.  



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