Judge Mathis, Napoleon spread holiday cheer in Detroit

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

Sometimes, Santa Claus doesn’t wear a red suit.

Sometimes, he wears a badge or the black robes of a judge.

On Monday morning, 41 families and 120 children celebrated Christmas a few days early with a food and toy shopping spree at the Meijer store on Grand River in Detroit.

On hand to oversee the festivities were head elves Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and Greg Mathis, Detroit’s favorite TV judge.

“We had a fundraiser a few weeks ago and came up with a significant sum of money,” Napoleon said. “Enough that each family will receive a $75 food voucher and each child will receive $200 for clothes or toys. I think this is going to provide a very merry and thankful Christmas to a number of families.”

Among those families were Patricia Bevelle and her children: Javeon, Faith, Irving and Harmony, ages 14, 11, 10 and 8, respectively.

“The kids are running around like crazy, they just don’t know what to do with themselves,” said Bevelle, 35. “They’re picking out Nerf guns, Barbie dolls, arts and crafts, stuff for video games and action figures. I’m just so happy for them.”

The only person who could possibly be more excited than the Bevelle family would be Mathis, who, as he has for the past several years, returned to Detroit to help give back to his hometown.

“This is part of what I do when I come back home,” Mathis said. “I help other charities or at the Mathis Community Center where we’ll have another giveaway at 3 p.m. We had a community dinner for seniors at the center (19300 Greenfield) on Thanksgiving and we’ll have another one on Christmas Eve.”

Mathis spent much of the morning posing for photos.

“Many people get excited when they see me, but I want them focusing on shopping; that’s what’s really important,” Mathis said. “I get so excited when I see all these happy faces.”

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon joins a Detroit family to help pick out items during a Meijer shopping spree sponsored by the department on Monday, Dec. 21.

According to Napoleon, the funds for the Christmas giveaway came from supporters of the sheriff’s office, plus an auction of items donated by sports teams and businesses.

“I’ve been involved with this event since 2009,” Napoleon said. “I inherited it from Warren Evans, my predecessor as Wayne County sheriff.”

Bevelle feels like she and her family have been blessed.

“It wouldn’t have been a big Christmas this year,” Bevelle said. “They really helped us out. It’s been such a wonderful day, plus I got to meet Judge Mathis.”