Nine years have gone by, but Jim Glaub and Dylan Parker are still ensuring that they fulfill the Christmas wishes that are made in the letters addressed to Santa Claus, which they continue to mistakenly receive.
Glaub and Parker began the global gifting movement, known as “Miracle on 22nd Street“, back in 2010 after they started to get letters in the mailbox of their then-apartment in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood.
At the time, the former couple, who have since divorced and no longer live in the apartment, had been warned by the previous tenants that the address had been mistakenly receiving Santa’s mail for at least five years prior.
But when the envelopes continued to pour in, Glaub and Parker felt they needed to do something — and so they set out on a mission to get every letter, written by families in need living in their city, answered and fulfilled.
Despite moving out of their apartment, the movement has continued to grow — and so have the number of families in need reaching out to have their wishes fulfilled by Santa and his elves.
“Close to 150 letters came into the Chelsea apartment this year,” Glaub, 39, tells PEOPLE. “So far, we’ve matched over 300 families, which is incredible. We had so many families in need this year and so many elves that want to join into the magic.”
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“We didn’t ask for any of this but we’re just trying to keep going as best as we can,” he adds.
Though there have been some constants over the last nine years — “I can always tell you what the top toy of the year is,” Glaub jokes — there have also been some major changes, especially in the content of the letters, that Glaub has noticed.
“I think the letters have been reflective of the things we hear about in the news,” he explains of the notes, which range from lighthearted to serious and are often handwritten. “People are affected by health care, sudden loss of jobs, domestic abuse.”
“These innocent little beautiful Santa letters reflect a true need for what’s happening in our country,” he adds. “It’s not political, [but] it’s an interesting observation.”
The quantity of letters also changes year to year. Last year, Glaub said they received a total of 500 letters — compiled through the apartment, their website, and partner organizations — but this year, more hard letters were sent to their former residence.
“As this organization grows… we hope to be able to service hundreds of families,” he explains, noting that they’ve teamed up with the Poverty Alleviation Charity, NYC Together, and the Stonewall Foundation, among others, to fulfill the wishes.
“People want to hear about the letters in Chelsea and the magic behind that, but really what’s been magical is the community that has come around this and stepped up to become an elf and adopt a family in need,” Glaub says.
“We have elves from all over the world, but we have families all across the country now,” he continues. “We’re represented in almost every state. It’s amazing how this is the start of something pretty national.”
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When Glaub and Parker first set out to get the letters answered, they relied on social media to spread the word and created a “Miracle on 22nd Street” Facebook group.
Seeing the story, their filmmaker-friends Sarah Klein and Tom Mason did a short film on the former pair and their cause for her production company, Redglass Pictures. It was eventually picked up by The New York Times.
Not long after, the Christmas tale caught the attention of Tina Fey, who is currently working with Universal on an adaptation of the story, set to hit the big screen sometime in 2020.
“It’s so exciting,” Glaub tells PEOPLE. “I get little bits here and there. It’s gonna be what you imagine a classic, New York Christmas movie to be! What could be better?”
“It’s gonna be a beautiful story,” he adds. “And the best thing about this is that people are gonna walk out of the theater and want to do something. It’ll cause more people to sign up to be an elf or donate locally.”
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As Glaub looks towards the ten-year anniversary of his organization next year, he says he has no plans of giving up the reigns just yet.
“For the world, I’m happy to pass the elf hat to someone else, but right now it’s so good!” he says. “It’s mindblowing… You can’t pass up a massive opportunity like this. You’ve just gotta try and use it to help as many people as possible. That’s the reason for the season!”
“The whole thing couldn’t be done without all the amazing elves and volunteers who make it possible every year,” he adds. “It’s all about them.”
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