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Help needy New Yorkers have a great holiday by participating in a 'Secret Santa' mission

NYC has at least three different

NYC has at least three different "Secret Santa" programs that allow good Samaritans to fulfill the requests of needy New Yorkers with a minimum of fuss, expense or time away from their own families. Photo Credit: iStock

What better way to rev up for Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa than to give a needy NYC child or senior a happy holiday with a much-wanted gift?

NYC has at least three different "Secret Santa" programs that allow good Samaritans to fulfill the requests of needy New Yorkers with a minimum of fuss, expense or time away from their own families.

At HenryStreet.org you can read and answer the plaintive requests of 320 homeless children, with many of the pleas in the children's (or their mothers') handwriting. Fulfilling the dreams of the children and their parents is easy: Pick a letter, email info@henrystreet.org to announce which child's letter you've chosen, obtain the gift, wrap it up and label it clearly with the child's name and an assigned number: Then drop it off at 265 Henry Street, Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., or anytime at all to 128 Baruch Place, New York, NY (both on the Lower East Side).The deadline for gift acceptance is Dec. 2.

This is the 27th year for New York Cares' "Winter Wishes" fulfillment holiday project, which permits people to select a letter from one of the 42,000 children, teens and older people who plead for everything from skateboards and sneakers to comforters and cookware. After registering at www.newyorkcares.org and indicating how many wishes you'd like to fulfill (each one comes with a commitment to spend up to $40), you are matched up with a letter writer within two days. You then mail your wrapped gifts to the New York Cares community partners (churches, schools, shelters and other service organizations) that coordinated the appeals, and which distribute the gifts to those who requested them. This program remains open until all the requests are filled.

The 103rd annual "Operation Santa" opens Dec. 7 and runs until Dec. 23 at the James A. Farley Post Office, 481 Eighth Ave. Hours run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with a 7 p.m. closing time on Thursdays. The Post Office typically receives 300,000 to 500,000 pleas, with do-gooders stepping forward to fulfill only about 10% of requests. If you're planning on plucking one of these notes from the overflowing bins, bring your ID: Potential St. Nicks must present valid identification and sign participation forms before being officially "deputized" to read a letter sent to someone (i.e. Santa) other than themselves.

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