A new nonprofit organization will take over the duties of planning and hosting the annual Red Andrews Christmas Dinner in Oklahoma City, a group of the man's relatives and community leaders announced Wednesday.
The Red Andrews Christmas Dinner Foundation was formed following an announcement last week that the dinner, a tradition in Oklahoma City since the 1940s, had been canceled. An immediate outpouring of support to find a way to continue the dinner resulted in the foundation's formation.
“All of us in the Red Andrews family are absolutely thrilled to death about it being set up,” said Larry Cassil, Andrews' nephew. “I appreciate very much the fact this group is willing to take on the obligation.”
Local attorney Robert Goldman, whose family has longtime ties to the dinner, will be the chairman of the foundation's board, according to a news release. Other board members will be Cassil and attorney John Yoeckel, who is a member of the Oklahoma City Planning Commission.
“During this short period of restructuring, the response of the community through phone calls and social media has been overwhelming,” Goldman said at a news conference Wednesday. “From corporate participation to the individual volunteers, we've been inundated by people who share our desire to keep the dinner a success. Its longtime continuation is a proud legacy of this city.”
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. also are participating in organization.
Board members plan to pursue tax-exempt status and establish a structure that will allow the foundation and dinner to continue in the long term.
The dinner, hosted annually on Christmas Day at the Cox Convention Center, typically feeds more than 6,000 needy residents of the Oklahoma City area. Toys and clothes are provided for children who come to the dinner, and about 1,000 people volunteer at the event.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett issued a statement supporting the move.
“Because of its mission and impact, the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner has long been one of Oklahoma City's great holiday traditions,” he said. “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.”