Shelly Cutler isn’t a ghost writer but she makes an exception for Santa Claus.

The chance to bring joy to a child with a couple of short handwritten sentences, Cutler said, is one she simply can’t miss.

“It’s so well worth it,” Cutler, a member of the Baker Kiwanis Club and executive director of the Baker County Chamber of Commerce, said of her role as one of Santa’s designated scribes this Christmas.

“The Christmas spirit — sometimes we struggle to find it, but here it is.”

Cutler and two other Kiwanis Club members, Debbie Poe and MaryLynne Evans, divided up the task of replying to each of more than 250 letters to Santa written by Baker County children.

The last of the responses — postmarked from the North Pole, naturally — were mailed on Tuesday, Dec. 21.

And with each of the dozens of letters Cutler wrote, she imagined the smile of wonder on a little face, perhaps as the child pulls the envelope from a mailbox, or later when they, or a parent, reads Santa’s words.

“The way they light up and are so excited,” Cutler said. “There’s nothing like it.”

This is the second year the Kiwanis Club has invited local kids to write to Santa.

Last year the club started the effort because its longtime Christmas tradition — photos with the jolly old elf himself — was canceled due to the pandemic.

The letters to Santa campaign proved so popular, Cutler said, that the Kiwanis Club decided to continue it this year even though the photos with Santa event returned, on Dec. 4.

Kids who had their picture taken with Santa had a chance to write their letter then.

In addition, David Cowan, the Kiwanis Club’s secretary, set up Santa’s mailbag at the Chamber of Commerce visitor center.

Cutler said she has enjoyed, over the past few weeks, watching as cars pulled up and parents led kids across the parking lot, their tiny hands dropping their letters into the bag.

“I love it so much,” Cutler said.

She said she appreciates that, unlike when her own three children were young and also wrote to Santa each Christmas, she doesn’t have to disguise her handwriting with her responses to these letters.

And Cutler enjoys drafting a personal response to each letter — no form letters can bear Santa’s signature.

“No two are ever the same,” she said.

Cutler said she tries to personalize her responses based on the child’s letter.

Despite the tall stack of letters that needed to be answered, Cutler said the job never feels like work, in part because each letter is unique in multiple respects.

Sometimes the handwriting is neat, sometimes, well, it is a challenge to decipher.

The spelling is similarly variable.

But one consistent aspect is the earnest nature of these letters, a trait exclusive, perhaps, to the innocence of childhood.

“They’re just the sweetest,” Cutler said of the letters.

One author asks nothing for herself, using her precious letter instead to suggest that her baby brother would enjoy Paw Patrol cars and toys.

The writer is careful to note, lest there be a regrettable navigation error, that the address is the same, presumably the same as last year.

Another writer also declines to include a list of desired gifts, but makes sure Santa knows “I have been so good this year.”

The writer also wishes Santa a merry Christmas, and “be safe on your flight.”

Another child’s message is simple and straightforward: “How are you doing today? I hope you are doing good. Have a merry Christmas.”

Although letters to Santa often consist of a series of desired items — it is, after all, what he does — Cutler said it is heartwarming to read so many letters that exemplify the selfless nature of the season.

One letter, for instance, reads: “I wish for my family to have the best Chrismas ever, no matter how tough it is. I would also love my friends for happy holidays with their family. Last, I wish for you to have the best year ever.”

In the end, Cutler said this role — as one of Santa’s correspondence elves, you might say — is one she relishes and feels grateful to be part of.

“We’re fortunate to live in a community that gets involved and participates,” she said.

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