'Elves' Filling Christmas Wishes : Better Watch Out! Others Cut Into Santa Claus' Act

From Associated Press

Dear Santa: Just a friendly warning that letters sent to you from thousands of kids are being intercepted by the U.S. Postal Service and handed off to a bunch of self-proclaimed St. Nicks.

These pretenders to the sleigh are opening your mail, deciding who's naughty and who's nice and then handing out presents--all without consulting you.

In fact, there are so many people who want to be pseudo Santas that the 2,000 or so letters the Los Angeles post office receives each holiday season aren't enough to go around, spokesman David Mazer said Wednesday.

"One man wanted 10 letters, but we couldn't give him that many because we have other people who want to play Santa Claus," Mazer said. "We're just happy there are humanitarians that come by and pick up these letters."

Mail for Santa from Arizona, Texas and throughout Southern California ends up at the postal service's Terminal Annex, said Joe Francis Crenshaw, supervisor of the claims and inquiries section.

Some are addressed to Santa's traditional North Pole residence, but other writers apparently think he has vacation homes--in such spots as Hollywood, Los Angeles, Alaska and Canada.

Generous people come by each year to sort through the letters and find a special child or family to help, Crenshaw said.

"They are individuals who get joy and pleasure out of giving presents to kids. There's a look of joy on their face when they deliver them," she said.

Crenshaw is familiar enough with Los Angeles to be able to tell from the return addresses who is needy and who is greedy. However, some first-time givers ask how they can be sure their presents are deserved, she said.

"But when they go and deliver these packages, they say they wish they could do more," Crenshaw said.

The letters aren't just from children--teen-agers such as Amelia of Los Angeles also write.

"Dear Santa Claus: Well, I write this letter because I want a bed and clothes, shoes--my size is 7. . . . I'm 16. I want toys, for example. I write this because I'm very poor. I write every year, but you never came. I'm still waiting."

Another message for Santa came from a East Los Angeles boy.

"My name is Oscar and I'm 13 years old. You might think I'm too old to be writing to you, but I'm writing to you just in case. This year I'm not asking for anything for me. This year, I was hoping you would give my Mom a little something that would brighten her spirit this year."

The boy went on to tell Santa that there wouldn't be any Christmas trimmings because his mother was ill and receiving disability payments.

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