RACINE — We can’t speak for the rest of the globe, but Santa is getting his mail from the kids in greater Racine.
Thanks to the efforts of local letter carriers and Post Office clerks, the letters with a return address that come in to Racine post offices, and those handed to Postal Service workers during Saturday’s Downtown Holiday Parade, should get a response.
Those letters are all funneled to Laura Lee Dominguese, a letter carrier based at the 4 Mile Road station in Caledonia. Dominguese in turn divvies up the letters to several volunteer Santa helpers who pen responses to the youngsters.
Dominguese, 55, who has been with the Postal Service for 29 years, said the Racine post offices (Downtown, West Racine, and 4 Mile Road) average about 350 letters received each year. She said kids don’t need postage to send in the letters, but all replies from Santa are stamped with appropriate postage. After all, she said, Santa wouldn’t want to rile up people during these times when the Postal Service is dealing with financial challenges.
The return postage, Dominguese said, is supplied from the letter carriers’ union and donations from postal workers themselves. Any costs not made up by the donations come out of Dominguese’s pocket.
One of those helping Dominguese is Keith Mertins, 42, a clerk at the 4 Mile station. Mertins in turn enlists the help of his family to write answers to the letters.
“We write something a little special on each letter,” said Mertins, a 15-year Postal Service employee from Racine. “It is time-consuming, but it’s worth it. You know, reading the kids’ letters is just enjoyable. The things they ask for — from a million dollars to a little toy.”
Mertins said there have been times when the letters get a little sad. “We actually go out and buy something and leave it on the porches,” Mertins said while waiting with his daughter, Hannah, 12, to march in Saturday’s parade. Dominguese calls Mertins and his family “True ambassadors for the Postal Service.”
Jeff Connor, 48, a letter carrier who on Saturday was delivering mail on Ashland Avenue between Bate Street and Arlington Avenue, said he has received letters to Santa as early as July or August. And while delivering letters to Santa might add a bit of extra work during a busy time of the year, Connor and Lee Thomas, 54, a letter carrier who was working near Case Avenue and 20th Street on Saturday, say it’s worth it.
“It adds a little more to the load, but it’s worth it,” said Thomas, a Postal Service employee for 23 years. “But when you see a smile on their face, you forget about everything else. And when they get the letter back in the mail, you should see them.”