4 minute read

The holiday season will definitely be different during the pandemic. 

With families planning to have Christmas dinner over Zoom and others not being able to afford basic necessities due to the unemployment crisis, everyone will be making adjustments to their holiday traditions. 

One holiday staple of the Oklahoma City community, the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner, has been providing those in need with a free Christmas dinner since 1947. However, the operations of the event have been drastically altered due to various reasons. 

Traditions adjusted

The event is held every year at the Cox Convention Center, however, earlier this year, the center was turned into a film production studio called Prairie Surf Studios. So, since March, there were already talks about where the dinner would take place.

Waiting to receive a free Christmas meal
Waiting to receive a free Christmas meal on Christmas Day in 2017 at the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Eventually, it was decided that there would be multiple locations for the dinner spread out through the city, and that plan came in handy when the pandemic unfolded.

Now, there are six locations where people will be provided toys and ingredients to make Christmas meals (all items will be dropped off in car trunks in order to maintain social distancing). 

On their website, the dinner serves over 7,000 people each year, but according to one volunteer, those numbers might even be higher. 

NEW – Now Christmas Eve

The locations that will be distributing Thursday – Christmas Eve – are:

  • Northeast Community Center – 3815 N. Kelley – Christmas Eve – 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
  • First Baptist Church Oklahoma City – 1201 N. Robinson- Christmas Eve – 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
  • Boys & Girls Club – 3535 N. Western – Christmas Eve – 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Toy Distribution only:

Joe Carter Parking Lot – 400 E Reno – Christmas Eve – 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Wednesday, the distributions started at St. James Catholic Church on the south side.

Volunteers

Free Press spoke with Robert Goldman who has been one of the many long-term volunteers who has helped with the dinner. 

“We anticipated through the information we received from Father Pruett down at [St. James Church] that he would have about 2,000 [needing a meal],” Goldman said. St. James Church was the first location to start giving out food and toys yesterday. 

“I’m anticipating [on Christmas Eve], when we’re going to have four more locations open, that we’re going to have a massive amount [of people] and eventually run out of what we have to give to the people, which makes it so bittersweet for us,” he explained. 

There has also been a big disappointment from volunteers who are wanting to help as there are usually 1,000 people who volunteer every year. 

Free Press has covered the dinner in 2017 and 2019 and found that many volunteers show up to help serve others because they want to help others in light of missing a loved one during the holiday season. 

We spoke with restaurateur Sean Cummings who has been cooking meals for the dinner with his wife for a few years. He was not able to volunteer this year due to the pandemic.

“Both [my wife] and I are from Kansas City originally and holidays are always a little lonely because we couldn’t go home to our families because [our] restaurants are so busy,” Cummings said.

“[The] Red Andrews [Dinner] gave you a way to spend that whole day giving rather than feeling sorry for yourself and it was a great way to spend a day with a bunch of other people who a lot of times didn’t have a place to be.”

Despite the lack of volunteers, Thursday will be an extremely busy day as the turnout rate is expected to be even higher. 

“I think what we’ve learned from the first location is that there’s just a tremendous need out there. I hope that we won’t have to turn many people away because the food will run out for sure,” Goldman said.

Goldman also wanted to mention that the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner has been a community-supported event that is not possible without the help of volunteers throughout Oklahoma City. 


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