North Pole (Alaska) Won’t Answer Kids’ Letters This Year

Little Alaskan town can't conform to new federal regs

Mirna Zarate Peña
It's going to be a tough year for parents who will have to explain why neither Santa nor his helpers are going to reply to letters this year.
The little town of North Pole, Alaska, where the thousands of volunteers answer letters addressed to Santa in the North Pole every year, will likely have to shut down their program after the U.S. Postal Service enacted stricter regulations on the national program when a sex offender was discovered among the volunteers in Maryland last year. 

Now, Operation Santa volunteers are not allowed access to children's family names and addresses, which have been replaced with codes that match computerized addresses known only to the post office -- leaving it up to individual post offices to decide if they want to go through with the new time-consuming effort of addressing the response letters. And that's an effort that is likely not feasible in Alaska, said Anchorage-based agency spokeswoman Pamela Moody.

People in North Pole, where light posts are oversized candy-canes and streets have names like Kris Kringle Drive and Santa Clause Lane, are angry about the change, comparing the Postal Service to the Grinch who stole Christmas.

North Pole Mayor Doug Isaacson agreed caution is necessary to protect children, but was upset that the longstanding tradition would be ended by a sex offender on the East Coast, and that the North Pole volunteers weren't alerted earlier.

"It's Grinchlike that the Postal Service never informed all the little elves before the fact," he said. "They've been working on this for how long?"

Postal Service Spokeswoman Eva Jackson said the policy is in force to protect kids.

"Perhaps its a sad commentary in this day and age, but we feel we need to err on the side of caution and nothing is more important than making sure the privacy of the children is protected," Jackson said. "The North Pole post office didn't wish to participate in the program and redact the personal information.  It's labor intensive and resources are scarce."

While the Operation Santa program will continue in other places with post offices that can deal with the changes, the program that forwarded letters generically addressed to "Santa Claus, North Pole" to the small town will be discontinued unless the town can achieve the feat of making the changes before Christmas.

Get more: The Associated Press

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