Flint’s Santa, given safe haven by residents since 2013, returns home

FLINT, Michigan—Our beloved Santa is back. After being auctioned off in 2013 by an emergency manager and rescued by residents who raised $1,400 to ensure his well-being, Santa has been donated back to the City of Flint and returned home. 

“Santa was a symbol of Flint’s fighting spirit, even in the midst of a state takeover. We are so proud to welcome Santa back home as a symbol of both hope and progress. What defines us is how we rise,” Mayor Sheldon Neeley said, noting there were many attempts by Emergency Managers to deconstruct our community and our spirit.

Flint resident Melodee Mabbitt crowd-sourced funding and made headlines when Santa and the reindeer were put up for auction for a minimum bid of $5 back in 2013 (along with lots of other City of Flint property, including lawn mowers and other equipment Mayor Neeley recently purchased again to help the city Fight Blight). 

This week, Mabbitt donated Santa and all his sidekicks back to Flint City Hall. 

Santa has had an exciting life in the years he’s been away from Flint City Hall. He graced a College and Cultural Neighborhood rooftop in the winter seasons — but also made a cameo in the movie “Joy” featuring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. Santa was even known to show up at fundraisers, Alley Fest, and on at least one occasion, Soggy Bottom Bar. 

Mabbit said it took a special village of Flintstones to both rescue Santa and care for him during his years on the road. 

Special thanks go to Mabbitt as well as Crystal Pepperdine at Flint Handmade, which even featured Santa on some cool Flint swag; Roxanne Adair of Flint River Farms, who served as his chauffeur to Boston for the movie appearance; local activist Nayyirah Shariff, who retrieved Santa up from the auction block; business owner Steve Tessmer, who kept him safe during the off-season; and resident Jacob Rathbun, who gave Santa seasonal rooftop residence. 

According to a 2015 MLive article, Santa first came to Flint City Hall after being purchased by First Lady Patsy Lou Williamson as part of her work to spruce up City Hall and make the campus more festive during the holidays.

 “Flint is family. We take care of one another. Our Santa is a testament to that,” Mayor Neeley said. “We pledge to keep Santa safe and will proudly display him again this year.”