Perry Escoto wraps a present inside the James A. Farley Post Office building on the busiest day of the year at the post office December 14, 2009 in New York City.
An 8-year-old girl says she and her little brother were sad last year when Santa "flew right over our house and didn't stop."
New York postal officials say their Santa program is the largest in the country; it gets about 500,000 letters a year, some of them heartwrenching, with such undeliverable addresses as "Santa" and "The North Pole."
For safety, the return addresses are blacked out, and the letters are assigned numbers. Secret Santas must present a photo ID and fill out a form.
"I have been a very good girl," Caitlyn assures her hoped-for Santa. "And my brother, Joshua, has been good too."
"But my mommy lost her job and does not have money to get me and my brother any presents."
"We don't want any toys," she says — just clothes, a coat, a hat, "maybe some mittens," and shoes. "There are holes in my shoes and the snow makes my toes hurt."
Caitlyn thinks her mom, who "works so hard and deserves something really nice," might like a new robe or socks.
If Santa does come, "We will leave you milk and cookies if we have any."
Another little girl, Sheilyn, obviously had some help with her letter. She is just "3 years and 5 months old."
"My mother died and I live with my grandparents," her letter says. "I would like some earrings," clothes and shoes. "Thank you, Santa Claus."
The ages of the writers vary greatly.
"My name is Yoselin," says one. "I'm 31 years old," and a mother of two. "Santa, I'm very poor. Santa, I'm very sad because my kids want some new clothes and a pair of shoes but I don't have money.
"My father was so sick with leukemia and died two weeks ago. I spent all my little saving with his treatment, because it is so expensive in my country. .. Santa, please help me."
Joel's age is unclear. At the very least, he's an old soul.
His letter arrived on a school form that bore Santa's likeness and the phrase, "My Wish List."
There are no material goods on the list — only things that money can't buy.
"For Christmas," writes Joel, "I want hope, courage, bravery, a caring heart, a healthy mind, a loving soul ... friendly words."
It's clear that part of his wish list has already come true: "to know what Christmas means."