A Guide to USPS Operation Santa ®

Help answer sad letters to Santa written by
children who need a brighter Christmas

You can adopt real letters to Santa written by underprivileged kids and send your gifts directly to the children who wrote to him. There’s no middle man or charity; it’s micro-philanthropy, direct from you to a child when you give in this way.

Every December since 1912, the USPS Operation Santa ® has permitted the public to read and adopt children’s letters to Santa. Many are written by kids and Moms who ask only for “a warm coat for my 5 year old,” “new shoes, size 6,” or other basic necessities. Volunteers at Christmas may mail their gifts directly to children who need a brighter Christmas.

The USPS Operation Santa ® program is now online at USPSoperationSanta.com, and thousands of letters to Santa are available for adoption by the public. The elves at the post office select letters for posting at the site, and letters continue to pour in daily.

Be An Elf’s Seeking Gifts? offers tips for parents who are struggling financially this year and are seeking help with Christmas. There’s also a message just for kids explaining the program and assuring them that the postal elves send every child’s letter on to Santa and he will deliver his gifts on Christmas eve, as always. Be An Elf also offers a guide to the program for companies, as a team-building Company Christmas Charity.

Some people who volunteer feel alone and sad over the holidays, and find comfort and inspiration in adopting a child’s letter. Others have families and include their kids to teach them the meaning of Christmas.

Anyone in the US can print out a letter they adopt from the USPS ® website, together with a barcoded shipping label. To protect children’s privacy, USPS staff redact family names and addresses from letters before posting them online. Then they send them along their way to the North Pole, so kids will get Santa’s gifts too.

Volunteers who adopt letters must mail their gifts using the encoded shipping labels at any of 19,000 US postal branches that offer “label scanning”. See our Locations page to find one near you. Packages with gifts should be mailed by December 10th, but if volunteers are delayed post offices will accept their packages for mailing up until January 14, 2022.

Be An Elf adopts letters only through the USPS ® website. The number of letters we adopt increases as we receive tax-deductible donations from the public.

We do not adopt emails sent to us using the contact form at this site. If you are a family seeking gifts, we urge you to read the excellent tips on our Seeking Gifts? page. If you do write us, print your message out and mail it to Santa at his special address, also on our Seeking Gifts? page.

Every year Be An Elf adopts letters through the USPS ® website. Many ask for new shoes for kids, clothes, and other basic needs. Depending on how much we raise, Be An Elf’s goal is to send one parent in each family a Target gift card for $100. Our donors get a tax deduction, and we have faith that the Moms know best what their kids most want and need. We enclose the gift card in a Christmas card with a note saying simply, “This is for your kids. Love, Santa.”

Tax-deductible donations may be made to Be An Elf using our Donate Now page. Our mailing address is also there in case you prefer to give by check. Your contribution to Be An Elf will help us send more gifts to low-income families in time for Christmas.

If you have the time, adopt your own letter at the USPS website, USPSoperationsanta.com, or please Donate Now to Be An Elf, and help us bring joy to more kids on Christmas morning.  Either way, you’ll catch the true spirit of the holidays and help put smiles on the faces of needy kids on Christmas morning.

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From 1912 to 2019 the USPS welcomed walk-in volunteers at select branches, but the number of participating postal branches declined. In 2020 the Postal Service took the program online and expanded access to all Americans nationwide. Volunteers adopted over 23,000 of the neediest letters.

Because of Covid in 2020, the Postal Service canceled the traditional walk-in program at the last two branches that still offered it, New York City and Chicago. The walk-in program allowed the public to read letters in person at the branch alongside other volunteers. We are hoping the USPS will reopen for walk-ins at branches in major cities, as before. If they do, we will post that here.

Below is a 2011 cable news interview with Be An Elf’s Patrick Reynolds about the USPS ® program. At that time volunteers could still walk in and read letters at select postal branches. Although Operation Santa is now fully online, this news report captures the emotions so many volunteers experience. 

In all the news releases in our Press Room, we ask editors to cover the USPS Operation Santa ® story, with a mention at the end of our website as a guide to volunteering for the program, and also for those Seeking Gifts for Christmas. 


If you are struggling financially and unable to buy enough Christmas gifts for your kids this year, volunteers may be able to help out. We urge you to read our Seeking gifts? page for dates and the address where to mail letters to Santa, and tips that will make it more likely a volunteer will respond.

If you’re a volunteer with kids of your own, explain to your kids you want to send extra gifts to a child whose parents can’t buy their kids much this year. Reassure them that of course, Santa will still get the child’s letter and will send them his gifts, too.

Be An Elf is a tax-exempt charity. While not affiliated with USPS Operation Santa ®, Be An Elf supports it by recruiting thousands of new volunteers for it through a major grant from Google of $10,000 per month in free advertising. The grant was first awarded in 2007, and is ongoing.

We also provide an excellent guide for volunteers on our How to Volunteer page and create public awareness of the program through our news releases. Not least, our site offers excellent tips for parents from low-income families on our Seeking Gifts? page.

Be An Elf’s mission is to make more underprivileged children smile on Christmas morning and to inspire people with the real spirit of Christmas. Together we can bring joy to more children at Christmas.

Please make a tax-deductible gift and Donate Now to Be An Elf! 

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Help us bring smiles to needy kids on Christmas morning.

Only volunteers sending gifts should contact us. Santa will not see your message here! If you're seeking gifts, contact Santa's Christmas volunteers through our Writing to Santa page. If you want to give gifts, click below.


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Be An Elf is a tax-exempt 501c3 children's Christmas charity. Contributions are tax-deductible. We are not affiliated with USPS Operation Santa® but we support it by creating public awareness of the program online and in social media, by recruiting and orienting new volunteers to the program, and by offering tips to needy families writing to Santa. Be An Elf also uses donations to adopt letters to Santa and send gifts to the kids who wrote them. We will never share your info with third parties; see Be An Elf's privacy policy. ©2020 Be An Elf - All rights reserved.

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