LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The U.S. Postal Service Tuesday launched its annual “Operation Santa” program.

Officials held a press event at 11 a.m. providing information to the public on when and where “Santa’s helpers” can adopt and answer letters in the L.A. area.

The program, which will be offered in 17 cities across the country, began in 1912 when a postmaster asked local citizens and postal employees to respond to as many letters to Santa as they could.

In the 1940s, local businesses and charitable organizations were invited to participate.

A Los Angeles-based website, Be An Elf, provides information on how and where to get involved.

“There’s no middle man or charity. It’s micro-philanthropy, direct from you to a child, when you volunteer in this way. You’ll catch the true spirit of the holidays, and put smiles on the faces of needy kids on Christmas morning,” according to the site.

The nonprofit group was founded in 2004 by Patrick Reynolds, a longtime volunteer for Operation Santa, and is supported by a $10,000 grant per month in free advertising from Google.

A volunteer read one child’s letter to CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Stephanie Simmons: “Dear Santa, I’ve been good all year long. Can I please get a pool table for Christmas?”

While some requests bring a smile, many kids ask for basic needs for their families.

“Right now we’re struggling so bad we don’t even have money for food. It would be a blessing if you could bring us some food, also some shoes and clothes for us to wear for Christmas,” a volunteer read from another child’s letter.


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