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GLOBE SANTA

Globe Santa’s Gifts are Priority Mail

Mail carrier Filipe Almeda delivers a Globe Santa package along his route in Revere.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

SPOILER ALERT: Gifts from Globe Santa will not be arriving by sleigh this year. (Or any year, for that matter.)

They’re being delivered – to houses, apartments, hotels, and shelters in 201 cities and towns across Greater Boston – via USPS delivery trucks, inside sturdy cardboard boxes with Globe Santa’s picture on the packing tape.

About 16,500 families will receive boxes filled with books, toys and games, and about three-quarters of them have already made it to their destinations, where presumably they’re now concealed under beds or in closets until the holidays come, or till the kids sniff them out.

The task of delivering these gifts to children is the final step in a year-long, breathless feat of toy-shopping, donation-raising, letter-reading, logistics-calculating, database-making, label-printing, toy-sorting, box-packing and pallet-piling, much of which happens at the Globe’s Taunton facility, the site of the Globe printing presses which doubles as the Globe Santa Fulfillment Center, or packing warehouse.

But Globe Santa’s trusty partner in this whole endeavor is the US Postal Service, which assumes responsibilities that surely go far beyond the job description of any postal worker.

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Their involvement starts at the beginning of the process, well before the boxes are trucked to more than 120 local post offices where they are scanned, sorted and gingerly loaded onto mail carriers’ postal trucks.

It starts in September when the letters start to trickle in from families requesting holiday gifts for their children. Every one of the 16,500 letters is read and entered into a database by a team of readers at the Globe Santa office in Randolph.

One of the realities of the 21st century, however, is that not everyone knows how to address a letter any more. Or has a stamp. Or knows how to write, especially if they’re new to this country..

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Some of the envelopes are a bit of a hodgepodge, and it’s remarkable that they arrive at all. Some have no postage. Others have no address; they just say “Globe Santa.” Some put the return address where the destination should be.

Somehow the post office recognizes them. “I can’t say enough about the post office,” said Tammy McFarland who oversees Globe Santa’s team of letter-readers. “They treat every box like it’s a gift to a child, not a shipment to a house.”

“Typically, mail without postage would not reach its destination,” said Stephen Doherty, communications specialist for the US Postal Service in Boston. “But given that mail to Globe Santa is presumably from a child or person in need, it’s not surprising that postal employees might see them through to their destination.”

Letters addressed to Santa Claus or the North Pole would not reach their destination, he hastened to add.

For 68 years Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation, has provided gifts to children in need at holiday time. Please consider giving by phone, mail, or online at globesanta.org.


Linda Matchan can be reached at linda.matchan@globe.com