Using funds raised at an annual Second City charity event, the couple distributes more than $100,000 worth of holiday cheer between about a dozen Chicago-area families—down-on-their-luck households teetering on the brink of financial ruin.
The donations are, for some families, a life-altering event.
“There’s so much money that it can literally save a family’s entire year,” said Albini, a Chicago musician and recording studio owner who has worked with numerous groups, including Nirvana, the Pixies and Jesus Lizard.
But a policy change by the U.S. Postal Service has Albini looking for new ways to make his makeshift sleigh fly this holiday season. Citing privacy concerns, the Postal Service altered its Letters to Santa program late last year. Instead of providing unedited letters to potential donors, postal workers now black out the names, addresses and phone numbers of people who write to Santa asking for help.
The change means Albini’s wife, Heather Whinna, can no longer cull through the thousands of letters that amass each winter at Chicago’s main post office, looking for the neediest families. She is now looking for other ways to find deserving recipients.
e thousands of letters that amass each winter at Chicago’s main post office, looking for the neediest families. She is now looking for other ways to find deserving recipients.
Albini said the Postal Service’s new Letters to Santa policy makes it virtually impossible to deliver the goods in the way they have grown accustomed over the past 10 years.
“It does seem strange to create an obstacle between people who have asked for help and people who want to help them,” said Albini, who wrote to the Tribune asking for help. His e-mail was forwarded to the Problem Solver.
Albini said he and his wife only used letters written by adults, not suburban children looking for computer games or a new scooter.