(BCN) - For more than a century, the U.S. Post Office has collected letters addressed to the North Pole and helped secret Santas make a child's wish come true.
The 2018 Letters to Santa program starts this week at the Oakland Main Post Office and the San Francisco Post Office Processing and Distribution Center.
Individuals and organizations can peruse children's letters to Santa from around the region and then go pick out a gift to match a child's request, said Augustine Ruiz, postal service spokesman.
"It's a good way to spread that holiday cheer," Ruiz said.
Many letters ask Santa for toys, but the post office also gets requests from needy children asking for items like blankets and coats.
"What's amazing and alarming is you see a child asking not for themselves, but for basic needs for their family members," said Augustine Ruiz, U.S. Post Office spokesman.
The post office also handles letters to the North Pole that don't ask for a gift, Ruiz said. "A lot of children just want to say hello to Santa."
Older school children are enlisted to help write return letters from Santa, Ruiz said.
The letters to Santa, sorted by a core group of postal staff, are available for viewing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday until Dec. 20 at the San Francisco Evans Avenue postal lobby, 1300 Evans Ave.
In Oakland, letters will be available for viewing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Oakland Main Post Office, 1675 Seventh St.
Individuals and organizations can pick out a letter and bring back a packaged gift with proper postage up until Dec. 20.