Bernardston Kiwanian channels Santa for letter-writing kids

  • Santa replies on official letterhead from the North Pole. Recorder Staff

  • Abby Shaw of Bernardston puts her letter to Santa in Santa's mailbox, located in Bernardston's Cushman Park, in 2016. Recorder file photo

  • Local children can use Santa's mailbox, located in Cushman Park in Bernardston, to send off their Christmas wish lists. Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Bernardston resident Tom Mann is one of Santa’s correspondence elves. Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

Recorder Staff
Friday, December 22, 2017

BERNARDSTON — Each December morning, Tom Mann walks from his Center Street home to Cushman Park with a twinkle in his eye, eagerly anticipating what might be in the red mailbox.

“I’m a little kid with some of this,” Mann said. “When the flag’s up, I’m like ‘Yay! Another letter!’”

Mann, a member of the Bernardston Kiwanis Club, collects children’s letters to Santa that are left in the Kiwanis Club’s Santa mailbox. The decorated mailbox was installed in the park for a second year during the Dec. 3 tree lighting.

As one of Santa’s helpers, Mann reads through the handwritten letters — he’s received about 15 so far — and an individual response is prepared on official letterhead, which reads “From the desk of Santa Claus” on the top, and “The North Pole, Arctic Circle” on the bottom. Each envelope receives a “North Pole” stamp.

Assisting Santa in responding to the Bernardston children is a highlight for Mann, and is something that inspires him, as well as the other Kiwanis Club members, with Christmas spirit.

“When you’re reading those letters, there’s not a problem in the world,” Mann said. “If you just close your eyes for a minute, you can remember writing the same letters and putting out milk and cookies.”

The content of the letters runs the gamut, but Mann said it’s easy to see how much effort the children put into their writing despite quirky spelling or punctuation. They even sometimes decorate the letters with drawings.

“You love to see their individuality and the way they write, their spelling, their coloring,” he said.

One little girl asked for a cow, promising to take good care of it. Another wanted to see her family get into the Christmas spirit, and asked for help with schoolwork. Others provided lists of toy requests, or wished Santa luck in his extensive Christmas travels.

“Try not to toss your cookies when you eat all those cookies,” wrote one little boy named Jackson, who promised to leave out some cookies of his own and “probobly extra apples for the raindeer do not stop flying.”

With such creative children in town, Mann said, responding to letters takes some creativity, too. When thinking about how to make a wish for a cow come true, he initially thought he could elicit help from a local farmer.

“Then I started thinking about all the problems!” Santa’s response reads. “How to get such a big cow in my bag and under the tree! And then how to keep her still as to not wake you up as she would love to explore the house and knock everything over!”

Instead, Santa’s helper decided to send a cow ornament for the little girl’s Christmas tree, and some money for milk. On other occasions, Amazon and eBay help with shipping out toys, which is supported by the Kiwanis Club’s fundraising efforts through the year.

Children who still want to send letters to Santa can use the mailbox at least through Dec. 29, Mann said, adding that the Kiwanis Club may install the mailbox earlier next year so children can bring their letters to the tree lighting.

Having the mailbox is a win-win-win in Mann’s book: a win for him as Santa’s helper, a win for parents who have thanked Mann with cookies, and a win for children.

“Having something to believe in is part of the enjoyment of these,” Mann said.

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

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