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Red Andrews Christmas Dinner continues tradition of holiday warmth in its 70th year

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Photo Red Andrews Christmas Dinner / provided
  • Photo Red Andrews Christmas Dinner / provided

Ernest Andrews was promoting boxing matches at the Stockyards Coliseum in the 1940s when he discovered the living conditions of some of his young parking lot workers who lived in the Mulligan Flats area. Some of them lived in one-room houses with mud floors. Moved to help these families find joy during the holidays, he invited them to participate in a Christmas dinner. Because of the ongoing needs of the city’s less fortunate families, Andrews built the dinner into a tradition, one that continued long after his death in 1977.

“The community embraced it, and we’ve since grown to serve over 8,000 people,” said Mary Blankenship Pointer, Red Andrews Christmas Dinner secretary and treasurer. “It’s had a ripple effect as people invited people, and it just grows and grows and grows. It’s now one of the largest community dinners in our region.”

This year’s 70th Annual Red Andrews Christmas Dinner is 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at Cox Convention Center, 1 Myriad Gardens. Each guest receives a hot meal with turkey and all the trimmings, and every child can have a photo taken with Santa Claus and receive a toy. Pointer said she expects about 1,000 people to volunteer for the event, cooking and carving turkeys on Christmas Eve and serving the diners Christmas Day.

“We don’t reach out for volunteers; they just show up,” Pointer said. “They want to be part of it, and a lot of the volunteers are actually in need themselves. They are the working poor, and they’re giving back to the community.”

Photo Red Andrews Christmas Dinner / provided
  • Photo Red Andrews Christmas Dinner / provided

This is in keeping with Andrews’ background. Born in Houston, Texas, in 1900, Andrews was a teenager when his family of 13 moved to a farm near Edmond. He made the decision to stay behind and live in a boys’ home run by friends of his family. The experience of living and working around children who lived on the margins informed his life’s work.

These days, the dinner feeds people who are in financial straits as well as military members unable take leave to go home for the holidays and others who, for whatever reason, have nowhere else to spent Christmas Day.

“We have people from all walks of life, and it’s just the most heartwarming thing, because the community gets together, they celebrate together and everyone is treated exactly the same,” Pointer said.

Pointer, who is senior vice president of Republic Bank & Trust, was part of the group of community leaders who responded when the event was in danger of being discontinued in 2012. They set up Red Andrews’ Christmas Dinner Foundation, which works to organize the dinner in perpetuity.

Recently, a large supply of men’s coats was inadvertently donated to the event, which historically had not distributed warm clothing as part of its outreach. But Pointer said organizers soon discovered that the coats fulfilled a special need.

“We didn’t realize that a lot of the parents didn’t have warm coats,” she said. “They would sacrifice and buy their children coats, but they didn’t have coats themselves. A lot of these people are making $20,000 a year and working hard, but they can’t provide everything their families need.”

Donations of new, unwrapped toys and coats are being accepted at Jackie Cooper BMW, 14145 N. Broadway Extension, in Edmond; Goldman Law Firm, 222 NW 13th St.; and all Republic Bank & Trust locations. Cash donations can be made to Red Andrews’ Christmas Dinner Foundation care of Pointer. Call 405-253-8641 or email mpointer@rbt.com. In the meantime, the foundation is now stocking up for the thousands who will start Christmas Day at Cox Convention Center.

“We’ve already ordered 2,000 pounds of turkey,” she said, “so we’re ready.”

Visit redandrewsdinner.org.

Print headline: Holiday warmth, Red Andrews Christmas Dinner will feed an expected 8,000 people in need.

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