Red Andrews Christmas Dinner has 71st year
Another Oklahoma City Christmas tradition has come and gone.
The Red Andrews Christmas Dinner served any and all for the 71st time on Christmas Day.
More than 5,000 people ate turkey, sides and desserts at the Cox Convention Center beginning at 8:30 a.m., Red Andrews board member Gary Goldman said.
At 1 p.m., the line for the dinner was backed up to the door. A varied assortment of people patiently stood waiting to eat, while all the tables were filled with diners enjoying a warm meal.
The number of those served increased this year. Warmer weather last year brought a smaller draw than usual, organizers said.
Tables were piled high with an assortment of games, dolls, stuffed animals, books and more for the eager hands of children.
For the dinner, 800 volunteer aprons were available. They ran out of garb before they ran out of helping hands, Gary Goldman said.
Volunteers shepherded guests, a flurry of hands cleared tables, swept floors and moved away trash cans that filled almost as soon as they were emptied.
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Santa and Mrs. Claus were also on hand for group photos.
Cynthia Judy, 37, stood in line for one of those Santa photos with her 4-year-old nephew, Zachariah.
For Judy's family, the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner is always part of their Christmas.
"We can bring our kids down here to have fun and eat," Judy said. "There's much love down here from the people doing this stuff."
Zachariah already knew what kind of toy he was aiming to snag after taking his photo with Santa: either a Batman or Iron Man action figure.
"All the volunteers give up a portion, whether it's one hour or eight hours, of their special day to give back to those that aren't as fortunate," Gary Goldman said.
Gary Goldman has volunteered for the past 20 years.
"There was a time about six years ago when the Red Andrews family decided they weren't going to continue the dinner. My family, as well as many other civic leaders in the community, other corporate leaders in the community, we all stepped up and said, 'The Red Andrews Dinner can never go away.' It's an Oklahoma City tradition," Gary Goldman said.
It's a tradition his uncle, Robert Goldman, has been upholding for more than 30 years. He hasn't missed one, not even the year he had surgeries.
"I started bringing my kids when they were 6 or 7 years old. Just to show you the circle of life, today I had my 6-year-old granddaughter and my 3-year-old grandson," Robert Goldman said.
"It's such a feel-good situation. These people here are just fantastic. It's completely community run. There isn't a big corporation or a service organization that's involved in it. We've tried to keep it true to the family's idea of what they were going to do," he said.
"Red started out feeding eight people and it's progressed into what it is today. Everyone here has a vested interest in this, and you can tell. The spirit is unbelievable," Goldman said.
This was Sean Cummings' second year running the kitchen. He'd volunteered two years prior, carrying trays for people.
"I own a 40-seat restaurant. I don't even know how to serve 5,000 or 6,000 people. But my wife and I decided we've got to do it anyway. Can't leave anyone hanging," Cummings said.
"This year it's been shockingly efficient," he said.
Because of the diversity of people who are now attending the community dinner, organizers are hoping more bilingual volunteers will come forth.