For one child writing a letter to Santa this December, the wish wasn’t for presents of their own, but ones for a foster brother or sister set to come live with their family.
In a letter to Santa, the child wanted to make sure the new sibling would have a bean bag chair to sit in along with other presents to open on Christmas Day.
That was one of many requests that a trio of seniors considered as they scanned through a large stack of letters local kids had written to Santa. The response, from Dorothy Stuby, who lives at Compass Park, was to assure the kid that Santa would be bringing presents for both of them.
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With about 200 letters all needing a personal reply, three women who live at Compass Park — formerly the Indiana Masonic Home — took on the role of Santa, writing responses to kids from Franklin and elsewhere in Johnson County.
For Orrel Jenkins, who was born the year the Great Depression began in 1929, writing letters to Santa while growing up wasn’t even a consideration. She didn’t have any expectation of getting anything for Christmas outside of the large meal her extended family shared at her uncle’s house, she said.
The tradition of responding to letters from Santa is one Compass Park has done as far back as 1950, when the site still housed an orphanage and had a box where letters to Santa could be left, Compass Park activity coordinator Sandy Creek said.
The letters came from kids during Compass Park’s Breakfast with Santa event earlier this month. The retirement home also was one of several in the community that received letters the Franklin Parks and Recreation Department gathered at the Santa Shack during the city’s Christmas lighting, said Jenna Butler, an executive administrative assistant at Compass Park.
With a couple hundred letters to answer in time to be mailed back before Christmas, volunteers began writing responses on Thursday afternoon. They had example letters they could use, but also tried to individualize the message to each child.
When the letters are mailed back to the children, they’ll be addressed as if they are being sent from the North Pole, Butler said.
Using a blue pen, Jenkins wrote responses to the children in neat, cursive handwriting. Many of the children’s letters included a short list of the items a boy or girl was wanting to get for Christmas. Her typical response — not knowing what the child is actually getting for Christmas — is to let them know that Santa will do his best to get them the presents they’ve asked for.
Some of the presents being requested — fidget spinners, Nerf guns and Mario games — left the seniors scratching their heads. One kid wrote that his baby brother also needed toys, but they had to be ones he could chew on.
Other letters, however, were especially touching.
Several children made sure to let Santa know that they would have milk and cookies for him. One boy even said he’d be leaving out reindeer food. A girl wrote that she would always believe in Santa.
But the last one left Jenkins emotional.
The child had asked for peace and that “all children would be safe and loved.”
In the letter she wrote back, Jenkins thanked the child for being a caring person.