A sex offender is responsible for taking away some of the joy of the Postal Service’s Operation Santa program, reports the Associated Press. Volunteers who answer children’s letters to Santa can no longer deliver gifts in person — or even know where they’re going. The program resumed Saturday in New York and Chicago, three days after it was abruptly suspended after a postal worker in Maryland recognized a volunteer as a registered offender. A postal inspector intervened before the individual could answer a child’s letter.
In the 1920s, postal clerks answered Santa’s mail, buying food and toys for children. Over the years, the number of letters increased, and the program was opened to the public in post offices across the country. Some gift-givers showed up and surprised needy kids at home — after rifling through piles of letters and envelopes looking for a story that tugged at their heartstrings. Now, those opportunities for face-to-face contact are gone. Volunteers will no longer have access to the children’s last names or addresses. At New York City’s main post office, each letter now is removed from its envelope and photocopied, with the child’s surname blocked out if it appeared in the text. The addresses are replaced with codes that match computerized addresses known only to the post office.