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Dear Santa, The tough economy has hit us hard this year. Would you please help ..

Here's the truth about
children left behind.

Read it if you dare.

Read it if you can.

Read it and resolve to work for revolution and

By Stacy St. Clair

A letter to Santa Claus written by Ronisha
Moseley, 10, caught the eye of volunteers at
the U.S. Postal Service office in Chicago. She
asked "to go away somewhere nice," in her
letter. For the 4th grader, that somewhere
would be one of the downtown hotels she saw on
a recent sightseeing trip with her stepmom,
Carolyn Finley. Postal employees and volunteers
log 10-hour days separating letters into piles
based on gender and family size. The notes are
placed in the post office lobby, so customers
can read them and, if interested, select a
child to help.

[Watch a video of postal workers and customers
on Santa's team at the url below]

When Ronisha Moseley's stepmother gently told
her the family might not have Christmas
presents this year, the 10-year-old turned to
the one person she believed could help: Santa

Pencil in hand, Ronisha wrote him a one-page
letter on poinsettia stationery left over from
last year. The South Side girl explained that
her stepmother had lost her job and she hoped
Santa could come through with a gift for the
whole family.

"What I want for Christmas is for my stepmother
and me and my sister to go away somewhere
nice," she wrote.

For the 4th grader, "somewhere nice" would be
one of the downtown hotels she saw on a recent
sightseeing trip with her stepmom. Ronisha has
never stayed in a hotel and has been obsessed
with them since the family outing, her
stepmother Carolyn Finley said.

You can help answer kids' letters to Santa
Customers can help holiday wishes come true by
selecting some of this year's letters to Santa
Claus at the Cardiss Collins Postal Store, 433
W. Harrison St.

Letters will be available 24 hours a day
through Christmas Eve outside the Postal Store
lobby. Individual customers who wish to answer
Santa letters must pick them up in person and
present a photo ID.

Companies and organizations can obtain letters
for response, but must maintain a record of
letters assigned to specific individuals.

"She wants to go someplace where she gets to
pack a suitcase and sleep somewhere else for a
night," said Finley, who lost her job as a
teaching assistant in August and is raising
Ronisha and her sister on her own. "She thinks
Santa will help, but I tried to explain that
times are tough right now."

Her letter, like many sent through Chicago's
main post office, reflects the reality of
today's economy. In notes addressed to the
North Pole, children—and adults—share stories
of lost jobs, home foreclosures, skyrocketing
heating bills and evictions.

So far, the post office has received about
6,000 letters, a 50 percent increase over this
time last year. Officials believe the nation's
financial turmoil prompted the spike, as
traditionally optimistic requests for video
games and bikes are often supplanted by pleas
for basic necessities such as pajamas and

"In lighter times, you have kids asking for
everything they see," said Archie Culberson, a
postal clerk who has sorted Santa letters for
28 years. "But now, some kids are worried they
won't have Christmas at all, and they're
turning to Santa because they don't know who
else to ask."

Postal employees and volunteers log 10-hour
days separating letters into piles based on
gender and family size. The notes are placed in
the post office lobby, so customers can read
them and, if interested, select a child to

The wish lists available for perusal at the
Harrison Street location offer a heartbreaking
look at childlike faith amid a faltering
economy. A 10-year-old boy is sure Santa will
bring diapers for his baby sister. A girl in
3rd grade asks for slippers to keep her feet
warm. Two brothers say their mom needs help
making the rent.

Some kids staple report cards to their letters
in hopes of securing a spot on the scroll of
good girls and boys. Others provide character
references, urging Santa to check with
teachers, grandmothers or baby-sitters should
he have any doubts about their behavior.

"I just want what any regular girl would want,"
writes 9-year-old Annisha from Chicago,
promising to give Santa unlimited milk and
cookies if he doesn't skip over her house like
he did last year.

Brothers Crishon Kane, 7, and Christian Carter,
6, are seeking Santa's help after a year in
which their mother lost her job and they were
evicted from their Englewood apartment because
the landlord defaulted on the mortgage. As part
of the foreclosure process, the family's
belongings were removed from the dwelling and
left on the sidewalk.

Neighbors tried to save the possessions, but
looters took most of them, including the boys'
toys, their mother, Christina Kane, said.

"My mom doesn't have any money this year, but
we're good boys," Crishon wrote on behalf of
himself and his brother. "We like Batman."

Christina Kane sadly mailed the letter last
month, knowing her sons and their 19-month-old
sister will most likely be disappointed
Christmas morning. The boys talked nonstop
about Santa as they decorated the family's
artificial tree in their new apartment this
week, repeatedly asking their mother what she
thought he would bring them this year.

"I told them that our love for one another is
more important than any toy," said Christina
Kane, who's also caring for her teenage sister.
"They looked at me and said, 'What does that
mean?' "

Kane's best hope is that her boys' note is
selected by one of the thousands of area
residents who play Santa's helper and deliver
gifts to the neediest letter writers each year.
The post office doesn't vet the notes for their
veracity, but the tone and type of request
usually make it easy to guess which children
might not find gifts under the tree.

The kindhearted elves are encouraged to contact
the children's parents using the addresses or
phone numbers provided on the envelope and make
arrangements to drop off presents. The program,
however, never draws enough support, and many
children go unselected. Organizers worry this
year will be worse.

"That's what we're most afraid of," USPS
spokesman Mark Reynolds said. "We're going to
need more people to come down and take a

Ronisha Moseley isn't aware the letter she
wrote before Thanksgiving made a stop at the
Chicago post office. But she's convinced that
as soon as it reaches Santa's desk, he will
make arrangements for her stay at a hotel and
help her escape her rough-and-tumble Ashburn
neighborhood, if only for one night.

"He would want us to be quiet and safe," she
says. "He knows we're a nice family."

— Stacy St. Clair
Chicago Tribune


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