Pasco postal worker makes sure letters get to Santa

PASCO -- Lori Cramer doesn't know how some of the letters to Santa end up at the Pasco post office from places like Wisconsin, California or South Carolina.

Maybe it's a little of that magic at work that lets Santa circumnavigate the globe delivering billions of presents for good little children in the space of one night.

"They just show up," Cramer said.

It isn't only magic that lets Santa do what he does -- it's helpers like Cramer, who collects letters addressed to the jolly old elf and writes responses as a sort of volunteer Santa secretary.

The letters always describe the scene and happenings at the North Pole -- this year Santa's sleigh got a new paint job, for example, and all the reindeer pulled a little prank on Saint Nick and painted their noses Rudolph red.

"I describe the North Pole the best I can so the kids can run with their imaginations," she said.

She answers each of the estimated 600 to 800 letters that flow into the Pasco post office each year, as long as they have a return address. And she does it on her own time, separate from her job as a rural route carrier.

In the giving spirit of Kris Kringle himself, Cramer also chooses a handful of families to help each year, families whose letters touch her heart with their stories and their raw, honest emotions.

One of the families she is helping this year has four children who wrote in their letter to Santa that they would be happy with anything at all Santa chose to bring them -- they just want to experience Christmas, and they don't want to burden their unemployed parents with requests for toys when they know their parents are struggling just to pay the rent.

Cramer -- as an agent for Santa -- is getting the family a Christmas tree, decorations and fixings for Christmas dinner so that the children can have a day of holiday joy in the midst of the real-life struggles they face.

But charity isn't something confined to one day of the year for Cramer -- it's a value she embodies, and one she is teaching to her 10-year-old daughter, Sara.

"I instill so many values in her," Cramer said.

For example, on Sara's birthday this year, instead of asking for presents for herself, she asked for people to donate toys for children in foster care.

Sara also helped her mother collect holiday donations for foster kids -- and she helps answer the Santa letters.

What Cramer, her daughter and her husband -- who also has signed on as a Santa helper -- get back is the joy of seeing another family smile on Christmas.

"All I want is to see them smile," Cramer said.