LeDuff: This Santa is black and he lives in Detroit - New York News

LeDuff: This Santa is black and he lives in Detroit

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Motorized sleigh belonging to Detroit's own Santa Claus, Myron Benford Motorized sleigh belonging to Detroit's own Santa Claus, Myron Benford
Myron Benford lives to give during the Christmas season. Myron Benford lives to give during the Christmas season.
Off the Chain, Detroit -

Santa does not work at the North Pole. He works from a police impound garage on the city's east side.

Santa is a black man, stands 6-foot-6 and weighs in at 272 pounds. Santa is 68-years-old, has two bad knees and lives on a pension earned from years painting signs on the highways and byways.

Santa has a sleigh – a tricked out Chrysler minivan painted red with an infinite amount of miles on the odometer and two reindeer welded to the grill. Rudolph's electric nose even glows.

Santa has a half-dozen elves. They are white, middle-aged, round-eared, pear-shaped, thinning on top They carry side-arms. The neighborhood surrounding Santa's workshop, after all, can be a rough place.

"I had my reindeer at a secure place," Santa explained. "Somebody broke in the place looking for scrap, broke the reindeers up, took the stanchion I use to hold my reindeers up.  So this year, I had to go back in and have my elves, no question, repaired it and rebuilt it and we're ready to go."

During the summer season and at the Social Security office, Santa goes by his given Christian name, Myron Benford. But, inside, he really is Kris Kringle and he lives for the Christmas season, the days of children and good will. He's been around for so long, that even grandparents remember him from their childhood days.

For nearly a half-century, Benford has tooled around southeastern Michigan on Christmas Eve – followed by a loading van -- giving away donated presents, wrapping paper and all. He arrives by his motorized sleigh and reindeer. Rain or shine.

"I bring Santa to life," he said. "When these people see me out here, they know and believe that Santa still lives.  He's real. He's not in the movies. You actually see a sled. You actually see reindeers. And if there's two inches of snow out there buddy I'm telling you, you actually believe those reindeers are pulling that sled and Santa's out there to deliver."

But these are dark cynical days. The headlines filled with turmoil and war and evil. People have turned away from the good things they used to believe. It's hard to see the worth of innocence through the fog of selfishness . That's where Santa comes in.

"The story about Santa Claus: he was concerned about kids who didn't get things for Christmas," he said seated next to the wood stove, the sap hissing like a tea kettle. "There are a lot of good people in our community who have a lot of respect for themselves but are unwilling to ask. I try to seek out those individuals who are like that. And in doing so, try to up lift them. I come out here on Christmas and try to generate some joy. And get them to understand that true enough that Santa gives toys, books, hats and gloves. But basically its about giving and sharing. And if you share whatever you have, it'll be a better place. And if you can carry this on throughout the year, then I've done my job."

Indeed. God bless you Santa. And Merry Christmas to all.

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