Steve Bellone Steps In To Save Suffolk County Santa Claus

ST. JAMES, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It’s a miracle on Long Island.

Dave McKell, 83, of Huntington Station, who has played Santa Claus at the county-run St. James General Store for the past nine years, was let go because of Suffolk County budget cuts.

WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall on the call that saved Christmas

Officials claimed there wasn’t enough money in the budget to pay McKell $660 a year to dress up as Santa.

Mr. [Steve] Levy decided not to fund the Santa because he’s doing big cutbacks,” McKell told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.

He was among 750 workers being laid off county-wide to close a $135 million budget gap.

On Friday, McKell got the call telling him not to put his Santa suit away just yet.

Steve Bellone – who is running for Suffolk County Executive — is cutting a personal check to save Santa.

“I don’t think it’s about me, it’s about my kids and all the kids across the county who just love visiting with Santa,” Bellone told 1010 WINS. “It’s a different experience going to see a mall Santa versus coming to this great store — it’s the oldest, continuously operating general store in the country. It’s just a great family tradition.”

bellone and mckell Steve Bellone Steps In To Save Suffolk County Santa Claus

Steve Bellone and Dave McKell (credit: Handout)

McKell, who has six children and nine grandchildren, says his Santa job is priceless.

“We give out free candy canes, the kids come and they bring their own Christmas lists and I save them,” McKell said.

He says the children keep coming back each year.

“It’s a wonder to see their eyes light up,” McKell said. “The children that come there are very happy to see Santa.”

The St. James General store was built in 1857 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The county operates it as a museum.

Bellone’s offer did not go unnoticed by his opponent in the race for country executive, Angie Carpenter.

In a statment, the Carpenter campaign spokesperson called the Santa save a “cheap campaign stunt” adding that “to many Babylon residents Steve Bellone is truly the Grinch who stole Christmas.”

Sound off in our comments section below…

  • terrence

    c’mon …it is an obvious political ploy…he wouldn’t care about the “kids” if he wasn’t running for County Exec…what a phony

    • mike

      Newsday reports that it was Bellone’s wife, the Deputy Parks Commissioner, who fired Santa in the first place! Poetic justice for such an obvious political stunt!

  • Kaitlyn Redeman

    Good to see Santa is back on the job!
    Also, what adorable little girls–they should be models!!!!!

    Merry early Christmas to all!!

  • KPMc

    To all you Christian crusaders making anti-Semetic allusions while trying to blame a Jew for canning Santa…


    Santa Claus has absolutely nothing to do with your religion you morons. It’s not an attack on Christianity but a short-sighted attempt to close a budget gap that is akin to spitting in the ocean.

    But truthfully, wouldn’t Christ himself be offended by Santa for hijacking a religious holiday?

    But no… the crusaders have no problem twisting their beliefs and dumping on another group with hate and vitriol.

    Way to miss the message, Christian soldiers!

  • Mrs. Claus

    Tsk tsk…such cynicism. Understandable, sure….but the children don’t care who the County Executive is, or who the candidates for the job are. All they care about at Christmas is seeing Santa. And Steve Bellone – regardless of his motivation – has given something that REALLY matters back to his community through his generosity. THANK YOU, STEVE BELLONE….Happy holidays to you and your family.

    • Tiffany Bleil

      Thank you. Its so disappointing that people must rip apart a good act, just to find some selfishness and negativity in it. Who cares why he did it? He still did it! Just be grateful that for the little ones, they will still get their Santa this year, courtesy of Steve Bellone.

  • Anne Redeman

    Look at those beautiful girls!

  • moishe

    I wonder if mr.levy will cut out the menorah lighting cermony?

  • Dee

    $660 a year, that’s a dinner receipt from one of these politicians meals with their crooked cronies or Limo tab to drive them around with a body guard. What a surprise Bellone to the rescue. Is this an election year by chance?

  • wake up peeps

    Mr. Levy, cut funding for Santa Claus?
    Did he also cut public funding for the menorah display during hanukah?

    • Lorraine Huzar

      ,,,,,For all of the snarky Anti Semetic remarks about Levy. Newshflash. He is not Jewish, so spare us the menorah comments. I repeat He was brougth up a Christian

    • Lorraine Huzar


  • David L

    This is a political ploy to keep his name in the news as the Suffolk County Executive Election is Tuesday. I hope the foolish voters in Suffolk can see through this and the funds are not from the campaign



  • reality check

    all I know is the police in Nassau and Suffolk are the two highest (over paid) police forces in AMERICA!! With Suffolk being # 1

    These jokers mkae from 75k to start and 150-175k with overtime after a few years on th job! Stop looking at this Santa Claus and Start a conversation about these people given way to much power how also are paid at least double what they should be,
    (if not more then double) UNIONS FOR PUBLIC SERVANT TAX PAYER POSITIONS SHOULD NOT BE ALLLOWED. They keep taking monthly dues, and increase thier pay. A total here in Suffolk County!

  • Jerry_Leigh

    “Officials claimed there wasn’t enough money in the budget to pay McKell $660 a year to dress up as Santa. ‘Mr. [Steve] Levy decided not to fund the Santa because he’s doing big cutbacks’McKell told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.” I’m waiting for E.J. McMahon’s people to do an “analysis”, justifying the firing of this government worker. I DARE THEM!!!

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