After being canceled in early November, the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner was saved by the determination of a few to keep one of Oklahoma City's longest-running holiday traditions alive.
Established in the 1940s, the dinner started small. Red Andrews, a state legislator and local boxing promoter, paid for the first dinner out his own pocket when he invited 12 people off the street to eat with him on Christmas.
Now the dinner, which will be at the Cox Convention Center from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, feeds upward of 6,000 in need.
For a while this year, it looked as if the dinner would not happen. This led to the formation of a nonprofit foundation to keep tradition alive.
Attorney Robert Goldman, who has been involved with the dinner for 25 years, became chairman of the foundation. Fellow attorney John Yoeckel, Andrews' nephew Larry Cassil and Andrews' niece Betty McCord, who organized the dinners for 35 years, are serving on the board.
Goldman said the dinner not only provides warm Christmas food, it also has been a chance for thousands of children to get a free toy on Christmas.
“We now see what a tremendous undertaking this dinner is,” Goldman said. “Even with all the community support we have and all of those that have gotten involved, it's been tough. But the stories that we've heard from those involved and the thank-yous we have gotten from people who are so grateful, it's absolutely worth it.”
Yoeckel said volunteering for the dinner is one of the most rewarding experiences he's ever had.
“A lot of people have lent a hand,” Yoeckel said. “I would guess historically we get 500 to 1,000 volunteers each year, and it's a wonderful way to spend Christmas. We serve from the time we open the doors until the last person is served. No one leaves hungry”