KTUU (NBC): Letters to Santa will be answered after all

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The United States Postal Service has agreed to resume a program that answers children's letters to Santa sent to North Pole, Alaska, Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced on Friday.

Deputy Postmaster General Pat Donahoe told Murkowski during a phone call that the USPS had reconsidered its position not to allow Alaskan volunteers to answer letters addressed "Dear Santa, North Pole."

Donahoe told Murkowski the program would resume as in previous years, but with new security requirements to protect children's identities.

The Alaska USPS had decided to opt out of the "Dear Santa" program following the imposition of new security guidelines requiring Postal Service employees to redact children's last names and addresses and to track all letters in a database.

"I'm pleased that we were able to find a compromise that will allow children to hear back from Santa Claus this Christmas season," Murkowski said in a press release. "I heard from a number of ‘Dear Santa' volunteers in North Pole who expressed their disappointment with the USPS decision to opt out of the program. This decision today by the Postal Service brings the Christmas spirit back to Alaska."

In a separate press release, the USPS said letters to Santa must comply with the Postal Service's new privacy requirements.

"We are very happy to share the news that the Letters to Santa program is returning to the North Pole post office and that the integrity of the North Pole postmark will not be compromised," said Dianne Horbochuk, the USPS's Alaska district manger.

The new policies outraged North Pole mayor Doug Isaacson, who today said he is thankful for the change of heart.

"I think when they understood how big of a deal this is to people all over the world," Isaacson said. "That they realized that they needed to reconsider, and I grateful that they did."

Alaska's congressional delegation urged the USPS to reconsider Thursday. The USPS says anyone participating in the letter program must comply with the postal service's new privacy requirements.

Volunteers who would like to participate in the program should contact their local post office.

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Source: By Megan Baldino. Originally broadcast by KTUU on November 20, 2009