Jim Glaub and Dylan Parker have received hundreds of letters addressed to Santa Claus over the past seven years from families in need, and they’ve helped answer them through a global gifting movement they call “Miracle on 22nd Street.”
It’s a heartwarming cause that has even caught Hollywood’s attention (an adaptation of their story is headed to the big screen in 2019 written by Tina Fey). Glaub and Parker never expected their endeavor to take off when the letters started appearing in the mailbox of their then-apartment in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood.
A long way from Santa’s North Pole address, the couple — who have been married for five years — had been warned by the previous tenants that the address had been mistakenly receiving Santa’s mail for at least five years.
“They never answered them because it was only three or four letters a year,” Glaub, 37, tells PEOPLE. “And the first two years I lived there, it was that exact thing. I’d get three letters and I didn’t really think anything of it. I was like, ‘Oh, sorry — wrong number.’ ”
But 2011 was different. That year, the notes to St. Nick spiked to 450 envelopes.
Neither Glaub nor Parker, 35, had any idea why the number of letters had suddenly increased or how their address was chosen as the East Coast bureau of the North Pole. But there was a common thread in all the letters — they each came from families in need living in their city.
“These were our neighbors in the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan… these were our people,” Glaub says. “I just felt this need to help them.”
So the two set out on a mission to get every letter filled — taking to social media and spreading the word about the letters amongst their family and friends on a “Miracle on 22nd Street” Facebook group. Seeing the story, filmmaker-friends Sarah Klein and Tom Mason even did a short film on the pair and their cause for her production company, Redglass Pictures. It was picked up by The New York Times.
All these years later, the letters haven’t stopped. And even though Glaub and Dylan have moved out of their apartment, they’ve dedicated each holiday season to making sure the families in need who write to Santa have their wishes granted.
So far, not a single letter has gone unanswered — with people from all over the country and the world swooping in to help.
The letters range from lighthearted to serious. The majority are handwritten, while others are typed and include playful illustrations. The items requested are practical — winter clothing, toys, blankets and footwear. Occasionally, there’s an ask for a video game console thrown in there. Milk and cookies are often promised to be waiting for Santa on Christmas morning.
One letter in particular has stayed with Glaub over the years. It was from a boy who said he hoped Santa would deliver him a bed. “That was like a punch in the gut,” he recalls.
There’s no rulebook to how one answers each letter. Some participants fulfill all the requests, while others just get what they can. Glaub’s heard stories about in-person bonds formed between families and their letter-answerers. “I have a group of friends who have had their family now for five years or something.” he says. “It’s just nonstop crazy stories.”
Now living in London, the couple is in touch with the apartment’s current tenant to help collect the letters each year, and a friend scans each letter for recording.
This year, they even teamed up with officers at the The Patrol Borough Brooklyn North, who passed another 140 letters their way to help get fulfilled.
“It’s just so strange! It’s caused this global effort!” Glaub says. “We’ve had people from Hawaii to Alaska, Germany to London, Nicaragua, Abu Dhabi, Tokyo — all helping. I guess that’s the power of social media. Why would a woman from Abu Dhabi care about some family from Corona, Queens? It’s amazing.”
“I think that suggests we are all looking for that connection to something bigger,” Parker adds.
One things for sure – as long as letters keep coming, Glaub and Parker will work to get them answered. “Now it’s gotten to the point where we can’t not do it,” Glaub says. “We have to do it. It’s just part of our lives.”
To get involved with Glaub and Parker’s inspiring project, visit the Miracle on 22nd Street website.