LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Christmas is around the corner, meaning children across the country will be sending their wish lists to Santa Claus in the coming weeks, and the U.S. Postal Service has begun its annual program to ensure those kids get answers.

Operation Santa encourages residents to “adopt” letters written to Santa. Volunteers who adopt the letters can write back to the children and send them the gift they request from St. Nick.

The program dates back to 1912, when Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock authorized postal service workers and residents to respond to letters written to Santa Claus.

In the 1940s, the USPS reached out to businesses and charitable groups to help respond to the growing number of letters to Santa. Post Office officials say that even in today’s world of email, Twitter and text messages, many children still put pen to paper to send their gift wishes to the North Pole.

Officials with the nonprofit BeAnElf.org work to raise awareness of the campaign and recruit volunteers even though their organization is not affiliated with the Postal Service. Officials with the nonprofit note that many of the letters simply ask for things such as warm clothing, toys or even food.

In addition to Los Angeles, the Operation Santa program also operates out of post offices in Santa Clarita and Santa Ana, along with cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Oakland and San Francisco.

A list of participating post offices and information on volunteering is available online at www.BeAnElf.org.

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