Christmas is Joe Lebert’s favorite holiday, but decorating isn’t a lot of fun in his rural home in Fawn, where few people will see it.
Her mother’s house on Rankin Street in Arnold across from HD Berkey Elementary School was a better place. For a while he put a Christmas tree on the porch roof. The school children loved it. But it didn’t become such a great idea after the roof got new shingles.
Lebert went in search of something new.
And that’s when something unexpected – some say magical – happened.
To replace the tree, Lebert, 42, bought a “Letters to Santa Claus” mailbox and, for the first time in 2019, put it up in front, next to the sidewalk.
One day after work, Lebert saw what looked like white papers under the letterbox. He said he thought someone had dropped garbage in it.
But the papers were actually letters to Santa from the 19 students in Professor Mick Dombroski’s first grade class in Berkey.
Dombroski said he saw the letterbox, asked his students to write their letters and accompanied the class to drop off the letters – only to later realize that the letterbox was only a decoration.
But soon after, answers to every letter appeared at the school.
Santa is quite busy as Christmas approaches, so although he had time to answer the letters, he couldn’t deliver them directly to the children himself.
Like any good elf, Lebert passed the answers on to school.
“The kids were so excited. It was better than seeing Santa Claus, seeing those personalized letters,” Dombroski said. “They just started screaming, ‘This is Santa Claus! Look at this!’ and share with each other. So much joy comes out of it. This is the most exciting they have all year. These letters are very special to them. “
“It’s a magic letterbox.”
Lebert may not have known it at the time, but by delivering that first batch of letters he was committing himself.
Other letters to Santa were filed last year and responded. Lebert personally delivered them to nearly 50 children.
“The small role I play makes the holiday season even more special for me,” said Lebert.
Personalized responses from Santa include cards from the “Elf Executive Office” certifying that his recipient is on the official “Nice List”, with encouragement to keep up the good work.
In a cover letter, which is of course double-checked and signed by the head elf himself, Santa promises that he and his team will do their best to get the kids what they asked for.
The letterbox went out at the start of the year. Lebert said letters to Santa Claus are due to be sent by December 19, when the mailbox will be removed.
Unless they go to Berkey, letters must have return addresses so Lebert will know where to take the responses.
The first letters from Santa Claus are expected to arrive from December 1. Berkey students will receive theirs at school.
As word spreads of the magic of his mailbox, Lebert is ready for yet another increase in the number of letters.
“People have offered to help me this year,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing what it turned out to be.”