New York Daily Photo Analytics

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Unreported Acts of Kindness

I remember a statement made by former mayor Rudy Giuliani years ago about his frustration with the media and their tendency to focus their news coverage on the negative. He cited specific instances at that time of kind, benevolent, humanitarian acts that were worthy of coverage and that the media had not done anything at all. I think there is much truth in this - the positive does not sell. It takes an extraordinary act of kindness to compete with a smidgen of dirt. Gossip, divorce, murder, crime, natural disasters, infidelity, sex scandals, money, celebrities - these are the things people want to hear about.
So it is easy to understand how Operation Santa Claus could slip in under the radar or at least be relegated to a back story and forgotten. Each year hundreds of thousands of letters are addressed to Santa Claus. Most of these are written by needy children asking for a variety of things, sadly many of the basic necessities are included such as diapers, food and clothing
Operation Santa Claus began informally in the 1920s when postal clerks began responding to letters from children addressed to Santa Claus which otherwise would have ended up in the dead letter box. The clerks contributed their own money to buy gifts for the needy. As the number of letters grew, the postal clerks asked the public for help and Operation Santa Claus was born.
Until two years ago, Operation Santa Claus was headquartered at the U.S. General Post Office in New York City. This is the big kahuna of post offices, in the James A. Farley Building, a massive structure occupying two full city blocks and the only postal station in New York City open 24/7. All the Santa letters ended up here but recently postal stations nationwide are beginning to participate - see here for a list of stations. Also, for security reasons, some of the policies have changed. Previously, calls could be made for letters to be mailed or faxed, but now access must be made in person. Up to 6 letters can be had per person or 100 for organizations. The operation is set up at the north end of the main interior lobby - see here for hours and information. The program ends December 24th. It's still not too late for an unreported act of kindness :)

UPDATE: A comment here referenced use of my photo for a Gothamist article on operation Santa Claus. Unfortunately, the article references one by the New York Times, which reported that Operation Santa Claus was suspended nationwide on December 18 without much information as to why or for how long. The Times article indicates that there was reason to believe the halt was because "a registered sex offender had “adopted” a letter."


Nick Trusty said...

Nice credit on the Gothamist blog! I have been reading your blog for quite some time now and saw this pic appear there as well...very nice!

Happy holidays.

Brian Dubé said...

Nick - Thanks a lot. I did not see the credit and article. I have updated the posting with information about suspension of Operation Santa Claus.