Royal Oak postman helps Santa reply to letters
Royal Oak — Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus — just ask Royal Oak postal carrier John Dick, a self-described Santa’s elf who is in charge of answering hundreds of letters addressed to the big man at the North Pole.
“I work with about 20 other elves who volunteer to answer the letters,” said Dick, who took over the volunteer job in Royal Oak about eight years ago.
All letters addressed to Santa at 1 Candy Cane Lane, North Pole, 48068, end up at the Royal Oak post office from around southeast Michigan.
There is a special red, white and green box in the lobby of the post office where school children drop many of the letters.
The letters in Royal Oak are answered on Dick’s own time, but he says the effort is worth it.
Each year Santa shows up in the post office lobby for a visit after catching a lift in from the Royal Oak Fire Department.
“Let’s just say I’m very closely associated with getting Santa to the post office,” said Dick, who admires Santa so much he keeps a white beard in a closet at home for special occasions.
Dick and his helpers expect to answer more than 300 letters this year. A pair of letters last year led them to get donations and deliver wrapped gifts to a family having a hard time.
The Royal Oak Elves Committee meets regularly in an undisclosed location in the weeks before Christmas, sorting through the mail and considering how to respond after reading all the requests.
Children ask for all kinds of different things, but Dick’s committee of helpers are careful in their responses to acknowledge but never promise gifts in Santa’s return missives.
But not every letter is a request for toys and other treats. Some adults have written to Santa with serious explanations and hopes.
Last Christmas a local 8-year-old boy wrote telling Santa he didn’t want much for the holiday, just for his mom and dad to be happy.
Dick remembers the volunteers then found a second letter from the boy’s mother.
“The mom said she still believed in Santa but was having a hard year because she was going through a divorce,” he said. “She wasn’t sure she’d have enough money for the boy’s Christmas and was worried her son was struggling to keep believing in Santa. One of the elves came over and said we need to do something.”
Dick and the others found donors and eventually filled three large plastic bags with toys and other items.
“We ended up surprising her on Christmas Eve,” he said. “She got very emotional. We had toys for her son and their dog and met her outside her house. That was pretty cool.”
Dick said he and his fellow letter elves get a letter every year that really gets their attention . Four years ago a young woman sent a letter from Tennessee to Santa worried about the travails of her life. Dick responded with an upbeat message. The woman keeps writing back every Christmas with updates on her life and he responds. She now has a job, a boyfriend, a dog and included a picture of herself in this year’s letter.
“It seems like the letters from Santa give her some therapeutic effect,” he said. “People will say things in a letter to Santa they wouldn’t normally say because they know that no one is going to judge them.”