News Santa 97

Idaho Press Tribune

   17 Dec 1997 - Front Page

Dear Santa...

Nampa Optimists Bud Aune of Middleton shows a letter written from a child to a Santa Claus as Ben Barham of the Meridian Optimists listens

Nampa Optimists Bud Aune of Middleton shows a letter written from a child to a Santa Claus as Ben Barham of the Meridian Optimists listens.

Dick Selby / IPT

Group helps St. Nick beat mail crunch

NAMPA -- Requests for dinosaurs, movies, dolls and other toys flood Santa's North Pole workshop during this time of year, but sometimes the big guy needs a hand answering those letters.

The Nampa Optimists have accepted the challenge.

About 15 volunteers from the group have gathered in the basement of the Little Kitchen restaurant downtown to answer the letters every Thursday, Optimist vice president Vicki White said. Club members work on the letters during a lunch hour. This year's project started two weeks ago.

So far, the group has answered about 20 letters, but White said she expects a last-minute rush during the final week before Christmas. When the project began in 1996 the Optimists responded to 75 letters.

Some of the letters get right to the point with a succinct wish list. Others use the schmooze factor to get on Santa's good side: "Please tell Mrs. Claus hi for me," one child writes. "How is Rudolph doing? I be the elves are very busy this year. I wish you, Mrs. Claus, Rudolph, your other reindeer and your elves a merry, merry Christmas and a very happy New Year."

Other letters contain somber elements that far exceed a typical Christmas list. When the group answered letters in 1996, one note included suicide implications. White said the volunteers contacted the police, and the officers reached the person behind the letter.

"We've been so moved by the content of these letters," White said. "It just gives you such inspiration to read them."

White said the Optimists sit in the Little Kitchen's basement and read each letter aloud. When readers stumble across a word that is difficult to decipher, others try to translated. When each letter has been recited, then each volunteer responds to a stack of letters.

Kids who include a return address receive a letter on Christmas stationery, printed in a child-like computer font. The return letters usually contain sentiments that reflect Santa's philosophy, White said. Santa signs each recipient's letter.

"The letters talk about the child being snug in their beds, and having a good night's sleep on Christmas eve," she said.

The Optimist club supports area youth though donations and service projects. The organization has donated money to students who are taking academic-related trips and has helped provide jungle gyms to area parks.

Reprinted by permission of Idaho Press Tribune
Note: Article retyped in HTML for better readability