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Santa still taking those Christmas wish requests

WORTHINGTON -- Attention all young boys and girls -- and also the young of heart -- there's still time to make your wishes known to Santa Claus.

A special drop-off box has been placed on Worthington's 10th Street, offering local youngsters a direct pipeline to Santa's North Pole headquarters. A project of the Retail Committee of the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, the depository for letters to Santa is located in front of Lit'l Wizards, 213 10th St. It is part of an overall effort to build the local holiday festivities and encourage more people to shop locally.

"This year we tried to come up with some fun activities for the holiday season, and one of those was offering children a chance to come down and see Santa, and if they couldn't make it down while he was here, we also offered this Santa's mailbox so they could relay their wishes to Santa," said Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Darlene Macklin.

The box itself is painted bright red and labeled boldly "Santa Mail."

"The box was made by some community members," explained Maria Thier, owner of Lit'l Wizards and chairwoman of the Retail Committee. "We tried to get an old postal box, but we wanted to make it different, so it wouldn't be confused with a regular mailbox, so they all put their heads together and came up with this."

Contributors to the construction and decoration of the Santa Mail box included Merlin Teerink, Susanne Murphy, Cory Bomgaars, Jerry Gronewold and Brad Behrends of Behrends Signworks.

The initial idea was to locate the box by Santa's Workshop, a temporary locale set up on the Nobles County Government Center lawn where Santa and Mrs. Claus have made a couple of special appearances this holiday season.

"But we decided we needed a location where somebody would be able to monitor it, check it, and it fit in with the store," which sells children's toys, books, games and educational materials, explained Thier. "And we wanted it outside, so it could be available 24/7 for the kids to drop off their letters."

Thier has taken a few peeks inside the receptacle and estimates there were close to 50 letters deposited by late last week.

"Some are just the cutest. There was one who wanted a dirt bike: "Please, please, please, please, please,'" she quoted. "There was one that asked for a baby brother. Some are in real envelopes with stamps on them. I've had parents in here telling me that their kids insisted they put real addresses and stamps on them. It's been a real treat to have it here at the store."

Whether the letters have stamps, official addresses or are simply drawings of what the writer desires, all such wishes will be dutifully made known to Santa in time for his Christmas Eve journey, even if they are posted at the last minute, Thier promised. The box will be in place through Christmas Eve.

"They still have time to get their letters in," she encouraged.

And plans are already under way to offer Santa's Mail again next year, perhaps with some new innovations. Possible improvements include a return letter from Santa himself and linking the letters to a charitable donation through a local corporation or business.

"We want to build on it," said Thier. "This was our first year, so it was a lot of trial and error. It's been a very talked-about piece here in the downtown."