Being Santa’s secretaries is a big responsibility; just ask the men and women at Santa’s ZIP code: 12345.
“It is, it is,” Darlene Muscanell said recently as she helped a room full of men and women fill that role. “But it’s fun.”
Muscanell heads the effort through her job as an administrative assistant for General Electric Renewables in Schenectady.
More than a dozen hard-working GE employees spend their lunch hours this month brightening Christmas for hundreds of children simply by responding to their letters to Santa.
General Electric workers have taken up that big responsibility for years because the corporate giant in Schenectady has long since shared the same ZIP code as the North Pole — at least in the minds of children.
After all, Santa would have a ZIP code that children could remember, right?
Muscanell said the effort puts everything in perspective at Christmas, “because these kids are innocent. They’re just so innocent in what they’re asking for.”
The Post Office delivers the letters and the workers sit in a room during their lunch break and answer them. They use form letters — they respond on Santa’s behalf, but they don’t actually have Santa’s powers, after all.
But they do try to personalize the letters with quick notes at the end like “love always, Santa” or “p.s., don’t forget the milk and cookies.” They’ll also include the child’s name.
As this employee effort is a lunchtime event, food was on hand this day, including cookies. Somebody, however, forgot the milk.
The crew sometimes gets letters from overseas from places where staff members know the language. In those cases they’ll write back in the home language.
Then there are the messages the kids send. Some are specific, some are general.
On a recent session, Carla Snyder, a GE Renewables contract manager from South Glens Falls, read aloud one child’s letter asking for a specific item. This child also wanted to ensure Santa knew where to find this item, and even to maybe call in a favor.
“I know it’s a little early, but I really, really, really want a Chromebook,” the child wrote. “It’s like a mini laptop and my pop told me that he knows you. Is that true?”
“But back to the Chromebook … ” the letter continued before explaining how Santa could look up the Chromebook on the Internet.
“It’s amazing what they write,” Muscanell said.
But kids also just write.
“Believe it or not, a lot of the young children will ask for peace, or they’ll say they want their family to be happy,” Muscanell added.
Other specific requests include Legos, games and, of course, Star Wars.
Sometimes, kids will be generous themselves (or maybe get Santa’s attention) by sending change and even candy.
Letters start coming in around Thanksgiving and Muscanell coordinates with the Post Office about getting an amount they can finish.
Last year, the GE crew finished and responded to 1,443 letters. They took care of a high of 1,581 in 2012.
This year, they answered 137 in their first session, including 122 from New York state, 12 from out-of-state and three from China and Hong Kong.
Of last year’s count, 1,155 came from New York and 116 from Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.