It is the one time of the year when children these days actually sit down to write letters.
Almost all of them, of course, are addressed to the very same place.
This story, though, isn’t about a letter headed to the North Pole. It was sent much closer to home and to a place that doesn’t smell anything like gingerbread.
The San Mateo Wastewater Treatment Plant.
It was Gina Cooper, the plant’s administrative assistant, who opened the letter. It was unlike one she had ever received. “It was a little tough to read at first,” Cooper said, “but I could see clearly on the top it was ‘Dear Wastewater Treatment Plant.'”
The letter was from a boy named Kenzo who has lost a LEGO piece down the bathtub drain at home and he was asking for workers a the plant to send it back to him.
Kenzo included a drawing of the LEGO piece, in case that would help in their search.
“It’s just this crayon thing,” Cooper said. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is the best day ever.’ We never get action like this. It was awesome.”
So, did the staff go to work scouring the pipes and tanks of the treatment plant for Kenzo’s lost LEGO?
Not a chance.
“No, it doesn’t quite work that way,” Brad Underwood, San Mateo’s Public Works Director, said. “This is a huge plant. It would be like finding a needle in a haystack so we don’t really search for things like that.”
Still, the staff at the Public Works Department was so charmed by Kenzo’s letter, they wanted to do something to help out the little boy. Cooper spent some time tracking down Kenzo’s address and invited him and his family to the plant for a private tour. When he arrived Cooper and Underwood presented Kenzo with new LEGOs, paid for by the Public Works’ staff.
Underwood said it was a nice thing to do for Kenzo, of course, but it turned out to be a nice thing for the staff as well. As essential employees, workers at the plant have been coming to work throughout the entire pandemic. It has been a difficult, at times, stressful year. Bonding over Kenzo’s story raised everyone’s spirits.
“It just transformed everything,” Cooper said. “It kind of gave us a reset button.”