The five-foot-tall box has been collecting children’s letters and sending back responses from the big man himself since 2019 – and this year, Santa’s Mailbox helpers Veronica DaSilva and Julie Stenstrom hope to collect 1,000 handwritten notes.
It’s no small feat for the retired pair.
“I went to 11 nearby schools to drop off flyers and get the word out,” DaSilva said. “Some of them had never heard about it, but they were really jazzed.”
The now-holiday tradition first got serious steam when multiple classes from Gulfport Montessori Elementary dropped off their own wishes to Santa last year. In all, the Gulfport box received 350 letters in 2020 – and Santa promptly answered each and every one.
The enthusiasm from the community – this year the box got its first letter of the season before December – prompted the 1,000 goal by DaSilva.
“I’ll do anything to put a smile on a kid’s face, especially this past year with COVID,” DaSilva said. “People always want to help and volunteer … and we need the help when we get a big drop off all at once.”
Flyers have also been spotted at local Gulfport businesses, an idea that DaSilva and Julie Stenstrom hatched after perhaps their most heartwarming Santa’s Mailbox story last year.
A letter from an adopted teen came in pleading for Santa to fix his mother’s 1994 Ford Thunderbird, explaining that hers was unsafe to drive. Gulfport Garage owner Eric Cudar fixed up her vehicle pro bono when he heard the news.
“That just still touches us to this day,” DaSilva said.
Drop off letters anytime at Santa’s Mailbox: 2304 51st St. S. Santa and his team of Gulfport-based elves respond to letters every few days.