By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
With Christmas fast approaching, it is again time for the annual Red Andrews Dinner, which has provided warm meals and toys for thousands of Oklahoma City residents since the 1940s.
Red Andrews family members, local community members and long time event volunteers are preparing to serve Oklahomans in need on Christmas day. The event takes place at the Cox Convention Center starting at 8 a.m.
“It has been incredible to witness Oklahomans working together in the spirit of serving our neighbors,” said Board Chair Robert Goldman. “We are all united in that we recognize what a highly-valued and impactful event this has been on the community for many decades.”
Betty McCord, Andrews’ niece who organized the dinners for 35 years, is the board’s honorary chairperson. UMB Oklahoma Bank is providing an account for the foundation and community relations’ employees from Chesapeake Energy Corp. are helping to organize the event.
Mary Blankenship Pointer, Senior Vice President UMB Oklahoma Bank said, “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 served more than 6,000 meals to hungry Oklahomans. The Red Andrews Dinner also provides new toys for needy children and clothing for children of all ages.
Children that attend will get to visit with Santa and have their photo taken.
Pointer added. “We will stay until the last person is fed. We need approximate 500 volunteers, the crucial hours are after 1 p.m.”
In 1958 Oklahoma City resident Jim Jones had his first Red Andrews Dinner experience.
“When I was eight years old we were living at Will Rogers Courts, a low income housing project built in 1937 by the WPA,” Jones said. “My mom took my brother Dan and I to it every year for several years.”
Jones said his mother was a single parent “way before it was fashionable.”
“In 1953 my mother, Mildred Jones, was one of the first policewomen hired by the City to be what were then called meter maids. I thought that we were really lucky out of this entire city, with maybe a hundred other kids, to be at a dinner like this and get free presents. It was a neat memory for me.”
“Of course at the time I didn’t know how poor we were and that we didn’t have two nickels to rub together.”
Jones volunteered several years in the 80’s and then last year he heard that the dinner might not be continued. “When I found out it would take place I wanted to be a part of it again.”
At 63, Jones is now a purchasing manager for a wire manufacturing company in Norman. The first in his family to obtain a college degree, he says his beginnings were very humble. He plans to volunteer every year now.
“Now I like to volunteer for the dinner because it brings back really good memories. I look at these kids that come today and I hope they feel as special as I felt.”
Jones said. “I do everything from picking up empty trays, to making sure people have their drinks topped off, empty trash, I serve, just wherever I can do to help.”
“The Red Andrews Dinner is something you really can’t put a value on to a little kid,” Jones said. I know there are hundreds of people in the city that have the same story I have. It’s a wonderful way to give back and it’s a great way for people without financial resources to treat their kids to a really special day.”
Financial and toy donations may be dropped off at one of four UMB Oklahoma Bank locations: Stockyards, Downtown, 63rd & Broadway Extension or Penn Square Mall.
Volunteers are asked to come to the southwest corner of the Cox Center any time after 7 a.m. on Christmas morning.
For more information, contact Mary Blankenship Pointer at 405-514-4929.