Area resident Jennifer Kirk, a single mom, knows how hard Christmas can be. A local letter carrier for five years, Kirk noticed Dear Santa requests — sent through the mail by children — weren't making it to Santa's ears. And so began a plan to change that.

Area resident Jennifer Kirk, a single mom, knows how hard Christmas can be.

A local letter carrier for five years, Kirk noticed Dear Santa requests — sent through the mail by children — weren't making it to Santa's ears.

“No one was doing anything with them,” she said. “I couldn't afford to buy presents, but I started replying to the letters.”

A particular letter touched Kirk's heart.

In the words of a big-hearted little letter-writer — an autistic child from Seminole — good wishes for Santa's safety were the focus, as it is cold this time of year and air traffic could be dangerous for the jolly old elf and his reindeer.

Kirk knew she wanted a better way to make the holiday bright for children.

The Carriers for Kids toy drive was founded in 2018 by a few letter carriers with the help of their friends and family.

Last year Kirk and her best friend set up 12 donation boxes, hoping to meet a goal of enough gifts to share with 50 children.

“My friend prayed about it, and said 100 kids needs to be our goal,” Kirk said.

Partnering with Community Renewal, Kirk's toy drive became a collaboration with Horace Mann Elementary School, where 65 first-graders wrote letters to Santa.

At the gift-giving event only a handful showed up, but Kirk said the effort in total served 115 children, which included 35 letters that were gathered from the carrier routes.

“They each got at least one toy,” she said. “If the child mentioned a brother or sister, we gave them a gift, too.”

This year Kirk is at it again.

“We're trying to expand to other towns; there are businesses in other places wanting to help,” she explained.

Almost two dozen donation sites are on her list this time around.

Wherever the boxes may sit collecting goodies for little ones, the end result has already proven to be a fast-growing endeavor for Kirk and her cohorts.

She said delivery has been fun for her, her daughter and her best friend.

“We've gone out dressed as elves and delivered gifts on Christmas Eve,” she said.

On Friday some of the gifts already gathered are set to be given out to some Horace Mann students.

“The donated toys are collected and matched to the best of our ability with the letters, then wrapped and labeled with the child's name,” Kirk said. “Santa makes a special stop at the class where each child receives a cookie, a picture with Santa and best of all, a present with their name on it.”

Kirk said the children on the carrier routes receive a personal visit from Santa's elves on Christmas Eve.

“This toy drive is near and dear to the hearts of all of our wonderful partners and volunteers,” she said. “To see the expression of pure belief and joy on these children's faces is absolutely priceless.”

Collections are scheduled to continue until Wednesday (Dec. 18).

Watch for pictures from Friday's event.