BY MARY WICOFF
Children will be excited to hear that Santa has his own mailbox in Danville — a bright red box at the corner of Vermilion and Swisher streets.
The box is located at the home of his helpers, Jessica and Bryan Sampson, who run the Yorkshire Bed and Breakfast at that corner.
“It’s a place where Santa can get his mail,” Jessica said, “and I’ll forward it.”
The letters don’t need stamps. However, if a parent includes $1 in the envelope to cover postage and ink, the child will get a special answer from Santa.
If there are serious requests (such as a lack of food or an indication of violence), the Sampsons will forward the letter to the proper agencies.
The Sampsons put the box out the day after Thanksgiving, and they’re eagerly awaiting their first “customers.”
“I thought it would be a really fun thing for kids,” Jessica said. The wood-and-metal box was a gift from her husband, who made it, and this is the first year for the project.
The Sampsons don’t have any little children in the house, as their sons are grown, so they’re trying to make the holidays special for the community children.
Jessica remembers how wonderful Christmas was when she was growing up. Santa arrived and did everything in one night — put up the tree, placed the presents and decorated the windows.
When she got up in the morning, she recalled, “It was just magical. Christmas has been a big deal since I was a little girl. I’m trying to make it a big deal for community kids.”
Christmas is celebrated in a big way at the Sampson home. The couple has three trees in their home, including a revolving tree with 2,700 lights and 1,172 ornaments.
Every Friday night for the past four years, they have rung bells at Wal-Mart, dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus. They give out candy canes to children and listen to their requests.
Jessica has Santa’s letter ready to send to children, including the reminder that the holiday isn’t just about receiving, but it’s also about giving.
While children can post their letters anywhere, Jessica said, “I think it just makes it more magical to mail their letter in Santa’s mailbox.”
A dying art
At the Danville Post Office, Acting Postmaster Shawn Bennett said he hasn’t seen many letters to Santa come through the building yet.
The Santa letters are forwarded to the Thomasboro Post Office.
“Kids don’t write letters anymore,” he said. “We’re not a culture that writes letters anymore.”
It’s too bad, he said, as people like to receive mail, and letters offer a personal touch.
With electronic communication, “We miss some of that personal contact,” he said.
The red box to collect letters from Santa is at 1664 N. Vermilion St., at the corner of Swisher Street. If families include $1 for postage and paper, their children will receive a return letter.