- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 26, 2002

It has been a long time since 85-year-old Hattie Goode believed in Santa, but early Christmas Day, he arrived at her doorstep.
He was tall, skinnier than she had expected, wore gold-rimmed glasses and carried the aroma of cigars. And from underneath the collar of his red velvet Santa suit peeked the blue hood of a U.S. postal worker's pullover.
Miss Goode, a resident of Northeast, couldn't stop smiling.
"This is a big deal," she said, clutching the big brown-paper package Santa handed her. It was an express delivery from her sister in Del Ray, Calif.
"I had forgotten this was coming and that the Postal Service works Christmas Day," she said.
Santa, or Wayne Hooks as he is otherwise known around the postal facility on South Dakota Avenue in Northeast, put smiles on several faces yesterday as he made his rounds with toys, food and all sorts of goodies sent via express mail.
Three postal facilities around the District were open Christmas Day to deliver express mail, but the one on South Dakota Avenue really got into the spirit, dressing up three of the 25 mail workers on duty.
Supervisor Lachelle Douglas said they have been doing this for years, after one worker decided to don a Santa costume on Christmas Day.
Now, the facility provides mail carriers such as Mr. Hooks, 60, with the red suits.
"It has become a tradition here," Ms. Douglas said. "People like seeing Santa deliver their mail."
For the mail workers, the costumes relieve the stress that typically accompanies the busiest holiday for express mail service. Workers such as Mr. Hooks start their day at 7:30 a.m.
The South Dakota Avenue facility delivered more than 200 packages yesterday.
Mr. Hooks, who is single and has three grown-up daughters, has volunteered for the role of Santa for the past 15 of the 37 years he has worked for the U.S. Postal Service in the District.
He gives it his all, even going so far as to grow his white hair long enough to go with the silky white beard that is part of the costume.
However, open-heart surgery a few years ago caused him to lose some weight.
"Maybe I'll just get a pillow next year," he said with a laugh.
Working Christmas Day is always a special experience, he said, because everyone appears to be in a better mood.
They're usually surprised, too.
Stephen Ponzini was quite taken aback when Mr. Hooks arrived at his Northeast town house with a large package from co-workers at an Air Force base in Oklahoma.
"I was not expecting this on Christmas Day," said Mr. Ponzini, a communications official with the U.S. Air Force, shaking his head in disbelief and joy. "It is perfect that it should be a surprise at this time of year."
As for Mr. Hooks, it was the perfect way to end his working day as Santa.
He served in Vietnam in the 1960s, and was proud to have delivered a package to a military man.
"It makes me feel real good," he said.

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