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Thu, July 18

Santa's mail helper enjoys bustle of season<BR><BR>

Santa Claus is coming to town! Most little children are writing letters to Santa to please bring them all the things they want for Christmas. (A special mailbox just for letters to Santa is right outside the front door of the Chino Valley Post Office. See above photo.)

Craig Dillenbeck shows the full carts and shelves at the Chino Valley Post Office. He reports that the Monday two weeks before Christmas is the post office's busiest day of the year.

Craig Dillenbeck, a postal worker at the Chino Valley Post Office, is one of Santa's helpers who makes sure Santa's letters get to him at the North Pole so the children's wishes can hopefully come true.

"We love the Santa Claus letters, and we try to pre-read the letters and get them ready for Santa," Craig said with a grin.

Craig reminds parents in Santa's behalf to make sure to put a return address on Santa's letters.

"Although Santa knows where you are, those of us at the post office don't," Craig said.

Each year the kids ask for a wide variety of gifts from Santa. One of the most exotic was a child who asked for a Ferrari for his dad.

"The sweetest letters are when the kids ask for something for others," he said.

"Last year a little girl asked Santa to bring her neighbor lady a horse because hers had just died and the lady was very sad. The child didn't ask for anything for herself," he recalled.

"The honesty and sincerity of the kids really impresses me."

Craig started working for the post office 20 years ago in California where he was born and raised. He requested a transfer from California because he fell in love with this area after a visit to his uncle who lives here. So in 1986 Craig, his wife Cheryl and their three children, Courtney, Nathaniel and Joshua, moved to Chino Valley.

"In my 20 years I have never been around people like the people in Chino Valley," he said. "They are so caring and they have honest concern. They make the holidays wonderful. Christmas is a hard time for those of us at the post office to relax because we are real busy. But, it isn't really hectic because everyone is in a good holiday mood.

"Our customers are the best," he added.

Not only does Craig appreciate the people of Chino Valley, but it seems that people must appreciate the postal workers here also.

"We get four or five comments a day, saying it is so nice to have a smiling face behind the counter," said Craig.

The busy season at the post office comes in two stages. One is in October with the mailing of pre-Christmas catalogs.

"The next busiest, starts the day after Thanksgiving, and I'm always glad I'm working and don't have to be out with the shoppers," he smiled.

"I enjoy the last four days before Christmas, when we're handing out packages that have come. The look of excitement and joy on the kids faces, really puts me into the Christmas spirit."

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