Three Ways to Make the Holidays Happier for Bay Area Kids

The Piedmont Fire Department is collecting for Toys for Tots, Mulberry's is collecting for CASA and the Oakland Post Office wants Santa volunteers.

As Christmas approaches, local agencies and businesses are stepping up their efforts to make the holiday a happy one for less fortunate children in the Bay Area.

Here are three local ways you can help their efforts:

—The Piedmont Fire Department is collecting for the annual Toys for Tots drive. New, unwrapped toys may be dropped of at the fire station, 120 Vista Ave., through Dec. 13.

Mulberry's Market, 335 Highland Ave. is again working with San Francisco CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) to provide gifts for children and youth in foster care. Stop by the store and pick up an ornament with a specific child's Christmas wish, go shopping and bring your unwrapped gift (or a check made out to "SF CASA") back to Mulberry's — with the ornament taped to it — by Dec. 8. 

—Some Bay Area children and families who are mailing their holiday requests to Santa Claus can expect a response from the jolly old elf himself with the help of volunteers and the U.S. Postal Service.

The postal service in December will continue its 101-year-old "Letters to Santa" program, in which workers and volunteers answer letters to Santa Claus and make the letter writers' holiday wishes a reality.

"During these difficult economic times, many families and children write to Santa as a last resort," said Mark Martinez, manager of the USPS Bay-Valley District.

Martinez said that "in most cases, the children who write are asking for something for a sister or brother, or other family member, instead of themselves."

Postal service employees, customers and organizations can help fulfill those wishes by heading to one of USPS' Operation Santa locations and adopting a letter, bringing a wrapped gift back to the same location and paying for postage to mail the present to the recipient.

The gift will then be shipped to the letter writer with the return address Operation Santa - North Pole.

Children's personal information will be redacted in the letters, according to the USPS.

The program begins on Tuesday, Dec. 3, with a celebration at the Oakland Processing and Distribution Center and will run through Dec. 19.

Those looking for more information about the "Operation Santa" program can call (510) 874-8737 or visit http://about.usps.com/corporate-social-responsibility/letters-to-santa.htm#p=1

The program dates back to 1912, when Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock authorized local postmasters to allow employees and citizens to respond to letters to Mr. Claus.

Information on the Postal Service program was provided by Bay City News Service.

Check the "Boards" section on the Piedmont Patch home page for more toy drives and other holiday requests for help from  a variety of Bay Area organizations.

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