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Sharon Whitehead, a former postal worker in Chattanooga, saved a letter to Santa from the 1970s. Contributed Photo by Sharon Whitehead.

The letter, in flowing cursive handwriting, is clearly old.

It's a thank-you note to Santa Claus, apparently from a teenage girl in the Chattanooga area, and it will touch your heart.

The corners of the lined notebook page have become brittle. One clue to its age: The letter mentions the Osmonds, the pop-star family whose fame peaked in the 1970s, so it is likely more than 40 years old.

For years, former United States Postal Service worker Sharon Whitehead has held onto the letter, intending to share it publicly.

Here's the back story. Whitehead, who now lives in Dalton, Georgia, worked at the main post office on Shallowford Road in Chattanooga from the late 1960s until the early 1980s.

During that time, a co-worker at the post office, a retail sales manager named Leon Hudson, volunteered to respond to Santa letters and to match needy families with groups and individuals that provided gifts.

"He would do anything to help anybody he could," Whitehead recalled.

A Chattanooga News-Free Press report from the mid-1980s said that Hudson, and later others, tried to respond to all the letters to Santa, often hundreds per year that flowed through the post office. They would set aside letters from needy children and verify with postal route workers that the families appeared to need help.

Hudson had secured gifts for this family and the letter was a heartfelt thank-you note, apparently from a teenage older sibling.

"Every time I read the letter it gets to me," Whitehead said in an interview this week. "She asked for nothing for herself, only for her family."

Here is a condensed version of the girl's note:

Dear Santa and Helpers:

I would like to thank you for the merriest Christmas I have ever had. The skateboard you brought is the nicest present I have ever received. And oh, I know, it must have cost an awful lot.

The book and things you brought Tina were "far out" in her words. If you could have only saw her face.

See, she knew that mamma didn't have any money to buy presents and that [little brother] Kenny would be the only one that would get anything.

But when she walked in the front room and saw all that stuff she broke down and cried. What she wanted most was that book on the Osmonds.

Thank you and all the helpers, too. And thank God for people out there who cared. We had a family prayer time before we opened the things, and prayed for the Lord to bless each and every one who done this.

Mamma loved the fancy fruit bowl and the turkey. We had turkey all week. Mamma said it couldn't have come at a more needed time.

Kenny loved everything. He loved the puppy and the See N Say toy.

Thank you and God bless you Santa Claus. And God bless all.

Love, Rita

____

A recent report by the Associated Press notes that Santa programs have existed formally and informally inside the U.S. Postal Service for more than 100 years.

Today, a USPS program called Operation Santa is an automated system that allows anyone to "adopt" a Santa letter from a disadvantaged child.

"Every year hundreds of thousands of letters to Santa go through the USPS system asking for everything from toys to food," according to the AP report.

The website to adopt a Santa letter is USPSOperationSanta.com. Because of COVID-19, all letter adoptions this year are being done online, the report noted.

"I'm sure there is a higher need this year," said Whitehead. "At our church last Sunday they said there are probably twice as many families needing help with toys and things this year."

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.

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Mark Kennedy / Staff file photo

 

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