Santa's helper responds to Crossroads kids' requests (w/ video)
Dec. 23, 2013 at 6:23 a.m.
Updated Dec. 24, 2013 at 6:24 a.m.
Down a small hallway, inside her decorated office, Noreen Perry works her way through stacks of hand-written letters. Her responses, many of them personalized, spread one message throughout the Crossroads.
Yes, Victoria, there is a Santa Claus.
The United States Postal Service employee, for a couple months a year, serves as Santa's helper. From the comfort of her office, she responds to each and every Santa letter carriers bring in.
"If they take the time to sit down and write a letter, the least we can do is respond," said Perry, a Pennsylvania native who now calls the Crossroads home. "I really enjoy it."
The work began about five years back, when another such helper asked for assistance, she said. And it continued off and on through the years.
In reality, Santa has many assistants within the postal service, Perry said. Anytime a carrier spots a letter addressed to Santa at the North Pole, it's his or her job to jot down the address to ensure a response.
While every child receives at least a form letter, many get special notes.
A child who sent in a colored reindeer picture, for instance, received a note back that Rudolph gave it two antlers up, Perry said. For children who admit they weren't on their best behavior, all isn't lost.
"I'll tell them that if they realize they've been bad, they know how to be good," she said, sifting through a colorful stack of letters on the desk.
Children's letters run the gamut, from those asking about Santa's recent vacations to those showcasing their newly honed cursive skills.
Some tug at the heartstrings, such as one child this year suffering through the loss of a pet guinea pig.
"Today was not a good day," began the letter, complete with drawings of the dead pet and crying letter writer. "Today, my best friend in the whole world died."
Another note from an older child a few years back prompted Perry to take action.
"She said she needed something to hug," Perry said. "I asked (Postmaster Ken Epley) if I could send something to her. I think I sent a stuffed animal."
And, while most letters come in from children asking for gifts themselves, sometimes those roles reverse themselves. One child this year packaged up a stuffed frog along with a note that Santa needs presents, too.
Today, that frog sits on Perry's desk, overseeing her seasonal work.
As diverse as the letters' contents are, so are their decorations, Epley said. Some come in on colored construction paper, some on notebook paper and some on Christmas cards or stationery.
This year's haul was a big one, he said, estimating more than 100 made their way to Perry's desk.
The first letters began trickling in in June.
Epley added that, while many children ask for footballs and bicycles, many others went high-tech, asking the big guy for iPads and Xboxes.
"It's fun to go through these," he said.
And Perry agreed.
Working as Santa's assistant might make for a little extra work - on top of everything, she must still take care of daily tasks, such as helping at the post office window and processing passports - but it's worth it.
After all, in her own way, she's working to spread the magic of the season.
"As long as I'm here, I'll be Santa's little elf," she said.