In 2020 USPS Operation Santa ® went online and letters to Santa may be adopted from home by anyone nationwide starting November 29, 2021. Children’s last names and addresses are removed before posting at the site, and volunteers print out a barcoded address label together with the letter they adopt.
Gifts may be mailed to families from any of 19,000 US Postal branches that offer “label scanning”. Scroll down to find the one closest to you.
Packages must be mailed by December 10th to be delivered by Christmas, but will be accepted for mailing until January 14th, 2022.
The website USPSOperationSanta.com closes for letter adoption on December 22, 2021 at 11:59 pm.
If you’re a parent struggling financially and seeking gifts for your kids, please see our SEEKING GIFTS? page.
HOW TO FIND THE NEAREST POSTAL BRANCH OFFERING THE “LABEL BROKER” SERVICE NEEDED TO MAIL YOUR GIFTS
Only these branches have the ability to scan the barcoded shipping label on your package.
To find a “label broker” post office near you, follow these steps:
- Go to USPS.com/locator. Fill in your zip code last, not first.
- Under Filtered by, select Post OfficesTM in the drop-down menu.
- Under Services, check the box Label Broker in the drop-down menu.
- Under Within, select the number of miles you’re willing to travel to find a “Label Broker” post office.
- Fill in your zip code last, and click on Search.
The results will show the postal branches closest to you offering the required “Label broker” service. Hours of operation are listed.
Apply your barcoded mailing label to your package before visiting the post office to mail your gifts.
DO NOT ADD POSTAGE TO YOUR PACKAGE IN ADVANCE. POSTAGE SHOULD ONLY BE ADDED AT THE TIME OF MAILING.
If you add postage to your package before taking it to the post office, you will be refused service after waiting in line. The reason is, USPS employees are not permitted to place postage on packages without an address.
Your barcoded mailing label will be scanned by the clerk, who will print out a new label with the family name and address. Only they may apply it to the package; you are not permitted to view the label to protect kids’ privacy. Once this is done, you may purchase postage and mail your gifts.
See above to locate the nearest branch to you that offers the “Label broker” service.
IF YOU’RE STRUGGLING FINANCIALLY AND NEED HELP THIS CHRISTMAS TO GET EXTRA GIFTS FOR YOUR KIDS, read the excellent tips we offer on our SEEKING GIFTS? page. There you’ll find Santa’s mailing address, instructions for kids and adults, and some great ideas for writing to Santa. With luck, a volunteer will adopt your letter or your whole family, and send you extra gifts for your kids. Check that page out now!
ADDRESSES OF THE LAST TWO WALK-IN BRANCHES, STILL CLOSED IN 2021
By 2019, the number of postal branches that still welcomed walk-in volunteers to read letters alongside each other had dwindled to two: New York City & Chicago.
In 2020 even those branches closed due to Covid. They remain closed in 2021. It’s not clear if the USPS will resume the old walk-in program in those cities, where demand was strong. Be An Elf is hoping they will after COVID is under control they will expand again to other major cities, as it was previously. But it’s possible the walk-in program will not reopen at all.
The good news is, instead of only being able to adopt letters in two major cities, the USPS has now made it possible to adopt and mail letters from anywhere in the US, right from home.
Taking the program online was actually a giant expansion of the traditional USPS Operation Santa program. The outcome: thousands more low-income children will receive gifts from Christmas volunteers. Thank you, USPS!
Call us sentimental, but here are the last two branches which permitted the public to walk in and read letters at the branch.
• New York City
James A. Farley Post Office
421 8th Ave
New York, NY 10199
Chicago District Post Office
Cardiss Collins Facility
433 W Harrison St
Chicago IL 60607
Lobby, 2nd Floor Mezzanine
Both branches historically had a robust program over the years, with tremendous daily demand for letters to Santa from Christmas volunteers. We hope they will reopen for walk-ins again one day.
Thank you for being an Elf!
We recommend volunteer elves check out our How to volunteer page now and do some planning. On that page you’ll see tips like giving a holiday Elf party, and sharing the fun, and also the work and cost, with a few friends and neighbors. Wrapping gifts together over holiday cheer can be fun! Sharing the cost also helps, because that can run up to $100 or more per letter answered. It goes up even higher if you adopt a family with several kids. We recommend also sending gifts to the moms; a scented candle or bubble bath soak are welcome gifts.)
Another great tip on our How to volunteer page: some volunteers answer multiple letters, and simply send families gift cards. They entrust the shopping to the Moms, who know what their kids need most. Be An Elf sends gift cards for letters we answer, and we prefer chains like Target or Wal-Mart over a Visa gift card.
When you donate to Be An Elf, it’s tax-deductible. Our all-volunteer group uses donations to our charity to send $100 Target gift cards to the families of letters we adopt. We enclose a card marked only, “This is for your kids. From Santa.” We like Target gift cards best because at Target, parents are more likely to purchase gifts their kids need, like clothes, school supplies, as well as the toys the kids want. Not least, Targets are everywhere.
Sending Target gift cards to families whose letters we adopt has enabled us in recent years to adopt many more Santa letters than when we began back in 2004. We have faith that the Moms know best what their kids need.
Please read our How to volunteer page for ideas for volunteering for this wonderful USPS tradition during the holidays.
We applaud the US Postal Service for posting needy children’s Santa letters online. This December, go to USPSoperationsanta.com, and adopt a low-income child’s letter to Santa!
Ho, ho, ho, and thanks for being an Elf and volunteering during the holidays this year!