The Nicest Place in Alaska: North Pole
NICEST PLACES IN AMERICA 2019 FINALIST
"The Nicest Place Ever"
Letters to Santa make their way to this frosty town, where folks keep the Christmas spirit alive for kids around the world.
North Pole, Alaska, isn’t the “real” North Pole, where Santa Claus lives with his workshop, elves, and reindeer—it’s actually 1,700 miles south of that one. Or, to put it in a way that adults might understand, the tiny town of some 2,000 people is about a 15-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of Fairbanks (population 31,000).
But kids don’t know that.
Every year, the U.S. Postal Service delivers mail addressed to “Santa, North Pole” to the post office in North Pole, and the town gets to work. Volunteers for the nonprofit Santa’s Letters open and read every letter and answer as many as they can, signing an elf name like “Jingles” or “Tinsel” at the bottom. There are four different form letters, but each volunteer adds a personalized postscript that mentions something in the child’s letter, so he or she knows that Santa really read it.
Last year, the town mailed out more than 10,000 letters, sending them to every one of these United States and to countries all over the world.
Donations—many of them from the nearby Eielson Air Force Base—pay for the postage, while local businesses pitch in for printing and paper. Postal workers even hand-stamp each envelope so it has a North Pole postmark, instead of an Anchorage one like the rest of the town mail.
“It is a labor of love,” says local businesswoman Sandra Forbes, who helped launch the nonprofit. “We absolutely love what we do.”
But even when it’s not the holiday season, the residents look out for one another. When resident Elizabeth Mogg’s two pit bulls got lost, the community went all-out to find them.
“I had around 15 different people I’ve never met get into their vehicles and drive around for hours trying to help find my dogs,” she says. “I can’t even count how many people in North Pole stayed in touch until we found both of them.”
I have 2 pit bulls that got loose a couple weeks ago. I had around 15 different people I’ve never met get into thier vehicles and drive around for hours trying to help find my dogs. And I can’t even count how many people in North Pole stayed in touch until we found both of them. I have never seen so many strangers come to help find lost dogs before.
This nomination came through ourpartnership with Nextdoor, the world’s largest social network for neighborhoods.