Santa’s Helper in Shawville

Ann Rogers

Writing a letter to Santa at Christmas is a rite of passage for any child. In the week leading up to Christmas, little ones put pen to paper outlining their wishes and doing their best to convince the jolly elf that they are worthy of the gifts they have asked for.

In Shawville, in the 1970s and 80s, many kids received the one gift that they had never expected, a return letter from Santa himself.

In those days, Santa and his helpers were not very well organized. They did not have computers, a special postal code, or a wide-reaching network of volunteers.

In those days, letters to Santa were mostly left unanswered including those that arrived at the Shawville post office.

Ann Rogers knew how excited a child could be when they received a letter in the mail. She was a teacher. A letter from Santa would be magical.

With this in mind, Ann volunteered to become Santa’s special helper and, from that year forward, every child in Shawville who wrote to Santa received a letter back.

Growing up with her sisters in St. Lambert (near Montreal), Ann loved Christmas and looked forward to it every year. She loved the lights, the music, and the decorations. It was in her blood, her father was born on December 25.

As a wife and mother, she
continued to share her love of the holidays. She loved the church dinners and teas, the parades and parties. Her home was always beautifully decorated. Ann made Christmas magical.

For years she continued to respond to the letters for Santa often employing the help of her fellow
Lionettes to get the job done.
In 1982 Canada Post started their letters to Santa program nationally and used staff to help Santa respond to childrens’ letters. That year, Ann set down her pen and stamps. Santa no longer needed a local helper.

The years went by, she raised two children of her own, Brian and Heather. Her husband, Dr. Grant Rogers died in 2017. Unable to manage on her own, Ann moved into a local long-term care facility, leaving the home she had shared with Grant for over 50 years.

With the house empty, the children began packing and sorting their mother’s belongings.

Floor by floor they went through precious memories and family heirlooms until they reached the attic.
It was there they found boxes upon boxes of letters addressed to Santa Claus.Ann had saved every letter that she had responded to.

“I knew she kept some of the letters,” said her daughter Heather. “It was not until I came upon them that I realized she had done
something so very special.”

Heather read through the letters and was overwhelmed by what she found. There were hundreds of them carefully handwritten on anything from notepaper to cereal boxes. The kids sent pictures, drawings, and pages out of the Sears catalogue. Ann Rogers wrote back to each of them.

Heather began to organize the letters and, in time, decided to return each one to its original sender.

Diane Stephens remembers the day that her letter to Santa
arrived. “My mother sent me a text saying a mysterious letter had arrived for me. I asked her to open it and send me a picture. I could not believe that someone I did not even know had kept this memory for me all these years. I could not believe that she had responded to all of those letters.”

Another family had saved every letter that their children had received from Santa’s helper. Each one written in Ann’s beautiful handwriting on Santa’s letterhead and marked with a special stamp from the North Pole.

These days Ann lives comfortably at the Valentine’s Centre. She has Alzhiemer’s Disease.

Sadly she will never remember how she touched the lives of so many children years ago, but through her daughter, she has returned precious memories that will be cherished for many years to come.

In 1974, three Canada Post employees started helping Santa respond to mail in Montreal, Quebec. In 1982, Canada Post rolled out the initiative across Canada and pledged that they would help Santa reply to every letter. Canada Post receives millions of letters addressed to Santa Claus each year, with a special dedicated postal code, H0H 0H0. About 15,000 current and retired CUPW unionized employees help Santa respond in many languages to each letter received. Over the past 27 years, Santa has responded to more than than 15 million letters with the help of CUPW volunteers.
In 2001, Canada Post started accepting e-mail messages to Santa. In 2006, more than 44,000 email messages were forwarded to Santa and replies were sent. Canada Post also receives letters to God and, on occasion, the Easter Bunny.