By Darla Shelden
For Christmas 2012, a new organization made up of community members, Red Andrews family members and long time event volunteers, have announced plans to continue the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner and its mission of serving Oklahomans in need on Christmas day. The annual Red Andrews Christmas Dinner has provided warm meals and toys for thousands of Oklahoma City residents since the 1940s.
When it was disclosed this fall that the event would be discontinued, family members and community leaders rallied. They created a newly incorporated organization, the Red Andrews’ Christmas Dinner Foundation, which will become a 501(c)3 non-profit organization aimed to secure a long-term future for the popular annual event.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said, “Because of its mission and impact, the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner has long been one of Oklahoma City’s great holiday traditions. We’re thankful to those in our community who stepped up to ensure that it continues to serve those in need during the holiday season.”
Attorney Robert Goldman of Goldman Law Office will be the new Chairman of the Board. Additional board members are Larry Cassil, attorney and Andrew’s nephew and John Yoeckel, Managing Member KPL Production Company and member of the Oklahoma City Planning Commission.
Goldman said, “It has been incredible to witness Oklahomans working together in the spirit of serving our neighbors. We are all united in that we recognize what a highly-valued and impactful event this has been on the community for many decades. I am honored to be a part of this organization and to chair the new board, which has already begun working feverishly as new custodians for the organization, preparing it for long-term sustainability to continue to give back to this community.”
Betty McCord, Andrews’ niece who organized the dinners for 35 years, will be the board’s honorary chairman. UMB Oklahoma Bank is providing an account for the foundation and community relations’ employees from Chesapeake Energy Corp. are assisting in organization.
Mary Blankenship Pointer, Senior Vice President UMB Oklahoma Bank said, “This annual holiday tradition has been a long-lasting and important function for the community for over 60 years. UMB Oklahoma Bank is thrilled and very honored to be a part of keeping the legacy of the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner alive and to help continue impacting the lives of Oklahomans in need during the holidays this year and for many years to come.”
Last year, approximately 1,000 volunteers gathered at the Cox Convention Center to serve more than 6,000 meals to hungry Oklahomans during the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner. It also provides new toys for needy children and clothing for children of all ages.
Yoeckel said, “A key member of our planning group is Juan Landa. He has been the lead chef for 30 years. Valuable assistance has been provided by Teresa Rose, Sr. Director, Chesapeake Energy Community Relations, and Gary Goldman, Manager of Food Services at Chesapeake Energy.”
Ernest R. Andrews, nicknamed Red for his Irish copper hair, was born in Houston in 1900. When his family of 13 moved to a farm in Edmond, Andrews stayed behind in a Houston boys’ home operated by family friends. The experience made him determined to help others in need.
A journalism career brought Andrews to the Tulsa World, where he began having Christmas dinners in Tulsa in 1928. When he moved to Oklahoma City he continued his charitable event.
McCord tells the story of a young man named Cotton, who was foreman of the boys parking cars at the Stockyard Coliseum. Cotton lived behind the Coliseum in Mulligan Flats, an area of small, mud-floored shacks, adjacent to what is now the Oklahoma River. On Christmas in 1945, Andrews and his wife Jean invited the boys and their families, about 100 people, to a dinner that included ham, beans, potatoes and hot rolls. It was such a success that it has continued for 67 years.
Red Andrews died in 1977, but his legacy of generosity lives on.
“We are grateful for the outpouring of community support since we announced the continuation of this longtime Oklahoma City tradition,” said Yoeckel. “We have heard from many people wishing to volunteer and from people offering financial support as well. Volunteers should come to the southwest corner of the Cox Center any time after 8 a.m. on Christmas morning. We begin serving our guests at 9 a.m. We need volunteers until the last guest is served.”
For financial and toy donations, contact Mary Blankenship Pointer at (405) 239-5936. Donations may be dropped off at one of four UMB Oklahoma Bank locations: Stockyards, Downtown, 63 & Broadway Extension or Penn Square Mall.
For more information about the Red Andrews’ Christmas Dinner Foundation, contact Teresa Rose at (405) 935-8547 or to learn more about the event, contact John Yoeckel at (405) 473-3967.