Kindness of strangers

Operation Santa, the Postal Service’s annual program to aid people in need during the holidays, is going nationwide for the first time in its 108-year history.

Through Operation Santa, USPS employees, customers and organizations “adopt” letters to Santa Claus and fulfill holiday wish lists from children and others who are less fortunate. Since beginning in the early 20th century, the program has been available primarily in major cities, but it will expand from coast to coast in 2020.

Beginning Nov. 16, children and others who want to have their wishes fulfilled can go to USPSOperationSanta.com to find instructions and tips on compiling their wish lists. Each letter must have a stamp and be addressed to Santa Claus, 123 Elf Road, North Pole 88888.

Santa’s “elves” will open each letter and, for safety reasons, remove any personally identifiable information, such as the letter writer’s last name, address and ZIP Code. The letters will then be uploaded to USPSOperationSanta.com — where, beginning Dec. 4, employees, customers, businesses, nonprofit groups and others can go to adopt a letter and fulfill the writer’s wishes.

For security reasons, each adopter must complete a brief registration and ID verification process before they will be allowed to adopt a letter.

The deadline to adopt letters is Dec. 19.

Operation Santa is credited with helping millions of children and families through the years. In 2019 alone, more than 12,760 letters were adopted — the highest number in the program’s history and an increase of more than 240 percent from the year before.

Many requests come from people who’ve experienced personal hardships, such as a New York City child who wrote to Santa in 2018 to ask for a turkey so the child’s family could have a holiday meal, and a Philadelphia mother who lost her job and wrote that year to ask for help providing Christmas gifts for her children.

The program traces its roots to 1912, when Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock authorized postal workers and customers to respond to letters that Post Offices received for Santa Claus.

“Dear Santa,” a documentary about the program, will be released in select theaters and through video-on-demand on Dec. 4.

Share your feedback at uspslink@usps.gov. Your comments could be included in the “Mailbag” column.

Home for the holidays

The Postal Service is sending households across the nation a mailer that highlights how mail helps people connect during the holidays.

“We go the distance to bring you closer,” the piece reads. “Stay in touch with all your loved ones this year with our tools, services and package tracking — all accessible on usps.com/together.”

The piece offers information on Priority Mail, including recommend shipping deadlines and the free Package Pickup service, as well as an overview of Informed Delivery and this year’s holiday stamps and USPS-themed gifts at the online Postal Store.

Additionally, the mailer highlights “Dear Santa,” a documentary about the USPS Operation Santa program. The film is slated for release in select theaters and through video on demand on Dec. 4.

The mailpiece is part of the Postal Service’s broader holiday advertising and marketing efforts, including a TV commercial that debuted this week.

Share your feedback at uspslink@usps.gov. Your comments could be included in the “Mailbag” column.

Kids’ stuff

Do you know how to keep your child safe from internet dangers?

Many children are using laptops, tablets and other devices to attend classes online during the coronavirus pandemic.

As they explore the internet, children can unwittingly become easy marks for cybercriminals ready to con them into downloading inappropriate content or malware.

To protect kids online, the CyberSafe at USPS team offers the following tips:

• Educate: Establish cybersafe behavior by educating youngsters about potential online dangers.

• Communicate: Regularly ask children what games they are playing or what sites they are viewing online and who they are interacting with.

• Limit: Set restrictions on your home network to filter content and block certain websites. Also, place parental controls on devices to set screen time limits.

Remember: USPS-issued computers and mobile devices should never be used by family members for any reason.

The CyberSafe at USPS Blue and LiteBlue pages have additional cybersecurity information.

Big four

Do you understand the different types of health plans available to Postal Service employees?

You can enroll in four types of plans during the annual open season benefits enrollment period:

  • Health maintenance organizations, which provide care from in-network plan physicians and hospitals located in particular geographic or service areas
  • Preferred provider organizations, which offer fee-for-service plans that allow you to choose physicians, hospitals and other health care providers both inside and outside of a network
  • Consumer-driven health plans, which give users freedom in spending health care dollars and offer plan-funded health reimbursement arrangements that may be used to pay certain up-front medical costs
  • High-deductible health plans, which offer comprehensive coverage for high-cost medical procedures and a tax break to save for future medical expenses through health savings accounts

USPS encourages you to learn about the available plans to find one that best fits your needs and the needs of your family.

This year’s open season runs from Nov. 9-Dec. 14.

The Open Season LiteBlue page has additional information, as well as a link to Checkbook’s Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees, a resource that can help you evaluate and compare specific plans.

News Briefs

Scanning snapshot

Scanning snapshot. A snapshot of Postal Service scanning data shows the national rating was 97.18 percent during the week ending Nov. 13, down 0.06 percent from one week earlier.

The data was collected Nov. 18.

Western-Pacific led the four areas with a rating of 97.6 percent, while Southern ranked last with a 96.85 percent rating.

Among the 67 districts, Dakotas, part of Western-Pacific Area, ranked first with a rating of 98.89 percent, while Mississippi, part of Southern Area, ranked last with a 94.89 percent rating.

To see the latest data, go to the Informed Visibility website and select “Customer Experience,” followed by “DES 2 Scan Performance.”

Open season information. The Postal Service will offer its “Making the Most of Open Season” webinar twice during the next week.

Each session will take place through the Zoom videoconferencing platform; participants can also use their phone to dial into the meetings.

The first session will be held Thursday, Nov. 19, at 3 p.m. EST. Participants can log in via Zoom or call 503-336-1236 or 952-229-5070 (meeting ID: 1618351311; password: 441555).

The session will be offered again Tuesday, Nov. 24, at 6 p.m. EST. Participants can log in via Zoom or call 503-336-1236 or 952-229-5070 (meeting ID: 1616047801; password: 224749).

Additionally, employees can participate in a live chat with health insurance experts on Friday, Nov. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

The chat is part of the Virtual Benefits Fair, an online event that is running during this year’s benefits enrollment period. Participants can register on the fair website.

The Open Season LiteBlue page has additional information.

Got news? Email your submissions to uspslink@usps.gov.