Does Be An Elf accept donated toys?

We do not accept donated toys, but if you get needy kids’ letters to Santa from a participating USPS Operation Santa post office, you can mail toys you wish to donate directly to the kids, or a sponsoring organization can. Search online for ” Christmas toy drive “, and see what organizations in your city come up.

This site is the best source of information on the web about the USPS Operation Santa program. Through our efforts to promote the site on the Internet and in social media, we are recruiting increasing numbers of volunteers for the program every year. That’s the service we gladly provide.

If you wish to donate toys or hopefully new clothes, choose a post office that’s near you. The reason is that the Postal Service removes children’s return addresses, and writes a coded number in their place on each letter. Packages for children must be returned to the same post office where the volunteer obtained their letters to Santa, with postage and ready for mailing.

We recommend 5 to 10 gifts per letter in order to cover potentially envious siblings and Moms, who are often single and living in poverty. While we do not accept gifts for children ourselves, this site links to a National Directory of participating postal branches, and lets you know How to Be An Elf most effectively.

How do I find a postal branch near me offering Operation Letters to Santa?

Please see our National Directory page to learn where this year’s Operation Santa postal branches are.


NOTE: Although we have updated our Home page and our Locations page, the information below this point on this page has not been updated. We just got all the new info, and are working hard to update this site.

The USPS program is going online November 18, and it has changed dramatically this year, and for the better! If you are reading this, our site should be fully updated by within 24 hours. 

For our pages that have been updated and that accurately reflect this year’s Operation Santa program®, please see our Home page and our Locations page.

Do not read on!


Not every postal branch offers the letters to Santa; in fact, in 2014, only 20 branches nationwide participated, mostly in cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The good news is that most of the participating branches were in large cities, giving access to many Americans.

What if there is no postal branch near me offering the program?

Please see our suggested Other Ways to Be an Elf.

Or, to start an Operation Santa branch in your city, please scroll down a bit, to How Do I Start an Operation Santa Postal Branch in My City?

What’s the address where can my child write to Santa? Can I write to Santa on behalf of my kids?


Write to Santa just after Thanksgiving, ideally before December 1st, in care of the address of the nearest Operation Santa postal branch. To find the nearest branch to you, visit our National Directory page and click on the link near the top center of the page. You should address the letter to Santa Claus, c/o Operation Santa, and add the nearest branch’s address underneath. Be sure to write your return address very clearly on the envelope; a postal employee will cut it away from your letter, so it will not distributed to the public. This is done to protect the privacy of your children. The postal service will keep your return address on file, and write a code number on your / your child’s letter. Later, if your letter is selected for adoption by a volunteer at a post office, that volunteer will return to the same Operation Santa postal branch with a package of gifts, ready for mailing to your child. They will add only the code (and postage) to the outside of the package, all ready for mailing to your home. The post office will then add your address to the package, and it will be delivered to you.

To avoid having one of your children receive all the gifts, instead of having each child write a separate letter to Santa, you might want to write to Santa as a family.

Another way to go is to have each of your children refer to their brothers and sisters, and to give Santa their ages and clothing sizes, too, in your letter.

Children who ask for X-boxes and Playstations will not likely inspire volunteers to help Santa send those things. In your letter, write a few details about your family circumstances and situation; if Mom or Dad are out of work, let Santa know that. You might ask Santa for a warm sweatshirt or coat, or new shoes, a warm blanket, a backpack for school, school supplies, books for your age, canned foods, or other basic needs. Do not ask for Santa for cash, because Santa does NOT send cash, ever! He brings gifts.

What about a child’s medical needs? It’s possible that a volunteer might even pass your letter along to who a doctor will might take care of your child’s medical needs “pro bono” (for free). There is no harm in asking Santa! It will all depend on the letter that you or your children write, and whether the volunteer is moved by it and forwards your letter along to a doctor they know. You can also write directly to doctors yourself!

Do not send photocopies of the same Santa letter, as that looks like you are spamming Santa and will turn volunteer elves off. Santa does not like that! Some families have done this, and we dont think those photocopied letters were ever answered. Just tell a few details about your situation, send one letter per child or parent, and all will be well. Remember that there are many more letters than there are volunteer elves to answer them.

Please do not send letters to Santa to our address; Santa will not get your letter here. Be An Elf just let folks know where to send Santa letters and tells them how they can volunteer to be elves and help him out!

How do I start an Operation Santa postal branch in my city?

The USPS in Washington DC allows every postal branch manager to decide whether their post office will have an Operation Letters to Santa program.

However, before you go down to your local post office to lobby the manager to start an Operation Santa program next Christmas, there are several facts you should consider.

First, the holidays are the busiest time of year for any post office, and postal workers are already working overtime. It doesn’t help that the USPS has posted multi-billion dollar losses in recent years. Every branch manager knows that. On top of that, in 2008 when the postal service began removing children’s addresses from letters by hand and substituting a numbered code, to protect children’s privacy, the process became a good deal more labor intensive.

Second, many Operation Santa branches are extremely large mail processing facilities in major cities like Boston, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. These large stations have more staff to spare for the Operation Letters to Santa program.

Because of all this, we believe a postal branch such as that is your best bet. To find one, ask the manager of your local post office if they know which is the “main post office” in a large city near you. If they don’t know, ask another manager. Next, contact the manager of a main post office. If you can’t get through, ask for the Communications, or Public Relations officer. The very large stations usually have one. Talk to them about starting an Operation Santa program there next Christmas.

It’s not a simple process to undertake. Postal workers must first read and select children’s letters and letters from Moms; they must then cut out the return addresses and code them to a number; then they must write that number on a child’s letter, before it is put into the “Needy letters” or “Needy Moms” box.

Ask the branch manager if they would accept volunteers from the public to help with this process in December. However, it’s possible they have a policy of only allowing postal workers to see children’s letters while they still have the return home addresses on them.

Next, consider that an affluent city like Beverly Hills may not have so many needy letters to Santa! Postal branches in economically depressed areas are a more likely bet, although we don’t think anyone at the Post Office will discuss this openly. It might be possible for a post office in an affluent area to “import” Santa letters from a less affluent area. This is a question to discuss with the manager of the post office in your city.

Bear in mind that in 2010, there were only 24 branches in the entire USA that offered it. That number tripled to 75 postal branches in 2011, but fell back to 25 branches in 2012. In 2013, it dropped further to 17 branches. That number could greatly increase with pro-active, motivated volunteers like yourself, one at a time.

Enlist the support of your friends, and form a committee to work on it together. Explain to your group it’s likely that attorneys at the Postal Service headquarters in Washington DC would not permit members of the public to volunteer to look for needy children’s letters and then remove their home addresses. The likely reason is that only postal service employees are insured for liability, so only they may see children’s home addresses.

If you succeed, politely ask the newly participating branch’s Communications officer if they will send out a news release announcing it to your local media, or send out your own press release. You may rewrite our news release to be local to your city if you wish. See our Press Room link on the main menu. We hope you will give our website a mention in your release, as we believe we are the best resource on the web for information about Operation Letters to Santa. In addition, every year we make the participating branches easy to find, starting the first week of December.

Lastly, if you do persuade the manager of the main post office near you to offer the program, please make sure they let the USPS Communications team in Washington DC know about it. Ask them to include the newly participating branch in their national directory of Operation Santa Post Offices, so that everyone in your city can easily find it next Christmas season.

My children received gifts. Is there any way to write a thank you letter to the volunteers?

It’s the very least I can do for the people who made my children’s faces light up on Christmas Day. I would rather thank them by giving them a hug and saying it to them, but I don’t know how. Post on our Facebook page from a Mom in Alford, Florida, December 26, 2012

It might be possible, but it will take some effort. Go to our website’s How and Where page, and click on the National Directory link. On the page that comes up next, click on the link in the center near the top, List of Participating Postal Branches. That will take you to a list of postal branches in Acrobat Reader, a free program which may be searched and downloaded online. Most computers have it.

Using our our most recent list, find the postal branch nearest to you. That is the likely place your volunteer got your child’s letter, or yours. It’s also the address you or your children should write Santa at next year. In 2013, only 17 post offices participated. In 2012, there were 25; in 2011, 75 participated, and in 2010 it 24 offered the program. The number varies from year to year.

The phone number of the closest postal branch to you should be on the list, or you may send a letter. Either way, contact the Communications officer at that branch, and ask for the name of the person who managed the Operation Letters to Santa program there. That will likely be the officer who distributed your child’s letter to the volunteer from the public, who later sent you gifts.

Since the post office began deleting children’s home addresses in 2008 to protect their privacy, volunteers can no longer knock on doors and deliver presents in person. So the contact between volunteers and families has been cut off, sadly. We used to knock on families’ doors on Christmas Eve and deliver gifts person to person. It was wonderful to see the smiles on families’ faces, especially the children. We photographed them, and those photos may be found in our Photo Gallery and on our press resources page.

With luck, it might be possible for one of the postal officer you contact to look up your volunteer by your address, and they could then forward your letter to them. Participating postal branches are required to keep every volunteer’s address on file, and they are linked to the code numbers and home addresses of the letters they adopt.

All volunteers are required to show photo ID; their addresses are verified in that way. Children’s return addresses are removed from your child’s letter, so these days the public never knows where the child who wrote to Santa lives. However, children’s addresses are retained for a limited time by the post office, usually until packages are mailed, and perhaps longer. So if the appropriate postal officer is able to look up your address, it might be possible for that officer to forward your letter of thanks on to the volunteer who sent gifts to your family.

If you plan to write next year, write to Santa c/o the address of the postal branch nearest to you. Mail your child’s letter or letters on November 30th or December 1st. It’s clear to us that single Moms often help their kids write letters, and many write letters themselves. They know about the program, like you do.

Feel free to write again, if you are having a tough year next Christmas season. We trust you will be honest. Know, too, that volunteers are more likely to adopt a letter asking Santa for basic necessities like clothes and shoes, vs. a child asking Santa for an X Box.

Even if your letter of thanks is received only by the postal officer, it will make them feel great, and help motivate them to do a great job next Christmas season. And with luck, they will find your volunteer and forward your letter on to them.

Donate to Be An Elf

Another good way to help out is to Donate Online to Be An Elf. You may give anonymously online if you wish.

Your gift will help us further our mission, expand our outreach and help us continue building an army of volunteer elves. Together we’ll put smiles on the faces of more needy children on Christmas morning.

Gifts to our tax exempt 501c3 group are tax-deductible. If you prefer to give by check, see below.

Give by check

Another good way to help out is to Donate Online to Be An Elf. You may give anonymously online if you wish.

Your gift will help us further our mission, expand our outreach and help us continue building an army of volunteer elves. Together we’ll put smiles on the faces of more needy children on Christmas morning.

Gifts to our tax exempt 501c3 group are tax-deductible. If you prefer to give by check, see below.

Give by check

If you prefer donate by check, please see Giving By Check. You may also Donate Online — anonymously if you wish. Our thanks for your generous gift!

We wish you a holiday season filled with love, and sincerely hope the year ahead will be bright and happy for you and your family. We honor you and thank you for caring.

You can make a difference in a child’s life. Thanks for being an Elf!

Elf Patrick


©2016 Be An Elf - All rights reserved.


Help us bring smiles to needy kids on Christmas morning.

Only volunteers may contact us. Santa will not see your message here! If you're seeking gifts, here is the best place we know where you can write to Santa!