Everyone knows Santa's schedule is a wee bit crazy this time of year. That's why he's enlisted the help of the Ashland Police Department to help answer some of the letters from children.

Retired police lieutenant Frank d'Entremont, now director of the department's community services, has served as Santa's surrogate for about 20 years now.

"The U.S. postmaster approached me, saying he had all these letters from kids addressed to Santa that were going to have to be tossed in the dead letter file. So I told him to just route them over to me," he said. "I've been doing it ever since."

Many letters are just drawings or colorful scribbles.

Some express simple thoughts, such as, "Dear Santa, I like babies with diapers."

Some are more elaborate, like Ian's typed list of 51 items, with a note at the bottom letting Santa know the list was "NOT prioritized." Aurora wants a Native American drum so she can "beat on it with sticks," and Isaiah wants a memory card, candy and pizza.

Many letters begin with the formalities of inquiring about Santa's health and how things are going at the North Pole, before delving into the crux of the matter. "Would you bring me these presents: a hat, coat, sippy cup and curtains?"

And Maggie wants Santa to know that she's tired of the stuffed animals he's been bringing year after year. "I want a REAL PET CAT and a REAL PET DOG."

D'Entremont said the most touching letter he ever received came from a little girl who wanted nothing for herself.

"Her father was out of work and all she asked Santa for was a job for her dad. It was just so selfless that I made a few calls to employment agencies in the area and got him a job."

Twenty years ago, the task of answering these letters was quite daunting.

"We'd get about 100 letters. A lot of women volunteers would come in and hand-write responses to the children. Now we only get 20 or so a year. So I do it all myself with a computer-generated letter on special Christmas stationery," d'Entremont said.

The letter discusses the North Pole weather and Santa's inspection of the reindeer. Santa says Mrs. Claus and the elves are very busy.

"The reindeer are anxious to get going. Everyone is running around like mad, bumping into each other trying to finish whatever they are doing in time."

Each letter is personally addressed to the children who wrote St. Nick, but d'Entremont said many don't even include return addresses.

"I think the parents probably don't think the kids will get a letter back. But they will, as long as there is an address to send it to."

Tim Ross, officer in charge of the Ashland Post Office, said they have a special postmarking stamp from the North Pole just for these letters so they look like authentic correspondences from Santa.

Ross said he wanted to give a special thank you to the police department for helping them out.

"This is an extremely busy time for us."

The police department will be accepting letters to Santa until Dec. 13.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x226 or