Dear Santa: Bring socks and underwear
More kids are asking Santa for necessities rather than toys. The requests show that the recession isn't over for many families.
Kids still write letters to Santa. Among the requests for Barbies and video games this year are some more poignant pleas: requests for clothes, shoes, and help with parents' bills.
Pete Fontana is the "chief elf" at the main post office in New York City, one of about 25 post offices around the nation that match families in need with people who want to help.
"The need is greater this year than I've ever seen it," he told USA Today. "One little girl didn't want anything for herself. She wanted a winter coat for her mother."
In Washington, D.C., the post office received only a handful of letters from children, but got more than 300 from parents, asking for help providing some Christmas joy to their kids.
"We saw a few last year, but it was never like this," a clerk told Petula Dvorak of The Washington Post.
This holiday season, those two worlds have been thrown into stark relief: At Tiffany's, executives report that sales of their most expensive merchandise have grown by double digits. At Wal-Mart, executives point to shoppers flooding the stores at midnight every two weeks to buy baby formula the minute their unemployment checks hit their accounts.
The national unemployment rate remains at 9.8%, but the rate is 15.7% for workers without high school diplomas and 15% for households that had been making less than $50,000 a year, Mui reports.
The U.S. Postal Service has organized Operation Santa for nearly 100 years, sharing letters to Santa with people who want to provide anonymous help. Not all post offices participate. Here is a list of the post offices participating.
In these tough times, the post office is seeing fewer Secret Santas and more people asking for help. Mark Reynolds at the Postal Service's Chicago district told USA Today that about half the requests for help won't be answered.
"There are a lot of letters coming in for just shoes and clothes this year," said Chicago postal clerk Tineecia Graves, in a video report by NBC Chicago. "I never heard so many kids ask for shoes and food and clothes rather than toys."
A single mom living in a shelter in Washington, D.C., sent a letter to Santa that included her children's clothing, underwear and shoe sizes. She wrote:
I want them to know there is hope.
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