Saltwater Portrait

Santa's helper, Rick DeWitt, replies to children's wishes

Rehoboth postmaster spreads holiday cheer
Rehoboth Beach Postmaster Rick DeWitt sits with some letters to Santa from area children. DeWitt helps Santa out by sending a personal reply to each letter. BY RACHEL SWICK MAVITY
December 20, 2011

Rehoboth Beach Postmaster Rick DeWitt makes sure no letter to Santa is lost in the mail.

Every colorful, sweet letter to the jolly old elf receives a personal reply from DeWitt. Each year about two dozen letters from Cape Region children cross DeWitt’s desk. He enjoys being Santa’s helper because it provides some light-hearted energy to what is a stressful season at the post office.

“I never promise the children anything, but I always personalize it by mentioning something from their original letter,” DeWitt said.

In one recent letter, a young boy asked for a basketball net. In his reply, DeWitt mentioned that Santa also likes to play basketball.

Delaware is not part of Operation Santa, which in many metro areas uses a team of volunteers to reply to letters to Santa. About 10 years ago, DeWitt decided to take the operation upon himself, otherwise many letters would have gone unanswered.

“It’s really nice to do for the kids,” said DeWitt, who feels happier during the holidays because of his effort. “What’s really nice is a lot of the kids said ‘I love you,’” and that simple message of love reminds DeWitt and his fellow postal officials about the real meaning of the season, he said.

DeWitt always tells the kids to be good for their parents and go to bed on time because Santa will be traveling through Lewes and Rehoboth as two of his first stops.

“I only started doing this because no one else was doing it here, and I didn’t want the kids letters to go unanswered,” he said. “Now it’s just part of the holidays for me.”

DeWitt, 49, and his wife, Stephanie, live on Red Mill Pond outside Lewes. When not decorating or enjoying the holidays, they travel to the annual postal service convention. The couple has a 20-year-old daughter who is in college. DeWitt said his wife likes to shop and he likes to play softball, golf and go fishing.

Prior to becoming postmaster in Rehoboth, DeWitt served as a letter carrier and postal clerk in Selbyville, Frankford and Millsboro. When he started in the postal service in 1987, he was looking for a secure future. Today, he said the service gave him a home, and most days he enjoys his job.

“Some of my favorite memories are as a letter carrier because I got to walk my route and really talk to the patrons,” DeWitt said. His route covered 12 miles, which he walked daily until his knees started bothering him.

Each year, DeWitt looks forward to the national postal convention because it gives him the opportunity to see a new city and mingle with other postal workers. The training sessions help him keep on the cutting edge of technology, which is more important today than ever, DeWitt said.

“We really need to do all we can to stay innovative especially with everything available on the internet,” DeWitt said.

While DeWitt was born in Wilmington, his family moved to Pot Nets when he was young. His wife and he will celebrate 25 years of marriage at the end of December. She teaches at Shields Elementary School and they both enjoy the many great restaurants in the Cape Region.

DeWitt enjoys the smaller community atmosphere in Rehoboth and knows many of his patrons by name. He even goes the extra mile to help some them, offering to drive one elderly woman to Washington, D.C., this holiday season so she could be with her children.

“My career has been a lot more good days than bad,” DeWitt said. “I will likely be here in Rehoboth until I retire. I really like the community, and my wife and I love living in this area.”