Woody Bates sat at a table at Augusta's Main Post Office on Thursday, helping St. Nick answer the hundreds of letters he receives from area children each holiday season.
"When they get their letter back from Santa Claus, that's it - that's their year right there," said Mr. Bates, a mail carrier. "(They say,) 'I don't care what big brother or big sister said. He is for real.'"
For 19 years, Mr. Bates said, he has been volunteering to assist Santa with his mail.
Carol Klein, a customer relations coordinator, said the project is an important annual task for many of the nation's 48,000 post offices.
"This one sent a dollar," said Ms. Klein with a smile as she selected a letter from the table. "'To pay the elves for all their hard work.'"
Another had a drawn bar code to help the postal employees, and another contained a dried leaf present, she said.
Some of the popular Christmas gifts requested include Nintendo video games for boys and Barbie dolls for girls, Mr. Bates said.
But the most unusual gift requested has to be the automated teller machine, Ms. Klein said.
And several children have asked questions about Santa in their letters, Mr. Bates said.
"How do your elves work?"
"How many reindeer do you (have)?"
"When is your birthday?"
In one letter a girl didn't ask for any toy, Mr. Bates said. "She just (wants) to let him know she loves Santa."
And one child confessed he had been naughty this year, he said, but that's an exception.
"He's noticed that the kids here have been a lot better (and) he's proud of that," Mr. Bates said.
Reach Nathan Dickinson at (706) 828-3904 or firstname.lastname@example.org.