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Video: USPS’ Operation Santa delivers Christmas dreams

  1. Transcript of: USPS’ Operation Santa delivers Christmas dreams

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Finally here tonight, this is the time of year that Santa 's mailbox overflows with letters from boys and girls and their wish lists. And Santa will tell you it is so important to be good all year, every year. Sometimes, though, even Santa himself needs a little help answering all that mail. Tonight NBC 's Mike Taibbi meets a man who's been making a difference for people of all ages who write those letters to Santa .

    MIKE TAIBBI reporting: Kids who write to Santa might figure he lives in a place like this . But many of their letters come through here, the main post office branch in Manhattan . It's getting close, so the bins are bursting; a separate operation to handle the crush. This Christmas season some two million letters will pass through this room, some addressed to Santa Claus , North Pole , others addressed to Operation Santa , and some just addressed to Pete Fontana .

    Mr. PETE FONTANA: This one's good to go.

    TAIBBI: That's because many now know Pete Fontana . He trains the seasonal staff and has been running Operation Santa for 15 years, and is retiring right after the holiday. It's the letters that keep him focused; this one from an eight-year-old with an out-of-work dad and a cold apartment.

    Mr. FONTANA: "And that's why I need socks, a jacket, pants, boots, pajamas."

    TAIBBI: And one he'll never forget, a request from a boy who lost his mother. Mr. FONTANA " Dear Santa , all I want for Christmas is for you to give mommy a hug and a kiss in heaven."

    TAIBBI: Every letter is read, and the ones about real need and not just the latest pricey toys are numbered, with personal data removed and entered into a computer file.

    Unidentified Woman #1: Here's the letters.

    Unidentified Woman #2: Thank you.

    TAIBBI: Then the helpers go to work. New walk-ins or repeat helpers, like Leon and Rose Marie Haywood , choose which Dear Santa wishes they can fill. Because the stories are familiar...

    Ms. ROSE MARIE HAYWOOD: I grew up poor, so I understand what it's like.

    TAIBBI: ...or because, like Lauren Posovsky and her friends, they never wanted for anything in life and see Operation Santa as a way to give back. She used Facebook to fill her apartment with gifts.

    Ms. LAUREN POSOVSKY: It's not about a man in a red suit and a white beard, it's about people looking beyond themselves this holiday season .

    TAIBBI: Pete sees the gifts pouring in, maybe 200,000 this year, as a kind of magic .

    Mr. FONTANA: I really believe that there really is a force here that's at work, that can't be explained.

    TAIBBI: And since it wouldn't sound quite right to say, 'Yes, Virginia , there is a force here that can't be explained,' Santa will do still. Mike Taibbi , NBC News, New York.

    WILLIAMS: See what I was saying about how much help Santa needs this time of year? If you're interested in more information about Operation Santa , we've put it on our Web site . That's nightly.msnbc.com.

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