NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Opinion: COVID alters, but doesn't stop, this OKC Christmas tradition

Volunteers serve food during the 2019 Red Andrews Christmas Dinner in Oklahoma City. [Oklahoman Archive Photo]
Volunteers serve food during the 2019 Red Andrews Christmas Dinner in Oklahoma City. [Oklahoman Archive Photo]

The COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be no match for one of Oklahoma City's dearest Christmas traditions. The Red Andrews Dinner will serve the needy, as it has for nearly 70 years, but the 2020 version will not be a sitdown dinner and, for the first time, the event won’t be held on Christmas Day.

Instead, organizers will distribute food and gifts at several locations Wednesday and Christmas Eve, after constructing a sweeping reorganization forced by the novel coronavirus.

Now, says Mary Blankenship Pointer, board secretary and treasurer of The Red Andrews Dinner Foundation and a 33-year veteran of the dinner, “This is the most excited I’ve ever been for the dinner. We see it as an opportunity to help more people than ever.”

The Oklahoman’s Dave Cathey wrote about the plans for this year’s dinner. It’s a classic case of Oklahomans coming through, as always, for their neighbors.

The Cox Convention Center has served as the dinner site for the past many years, but COVID-19 made that impossible. The Andrews foundation reached out to other nonprofits and came up with a plan that will have to-go holiday meal kits, toys for children and winter coats. The Homeless Alliance will deliver meals to its clients.

On Wednesday, St. James Catholic School, 4201 S McKinley Ave, will have 2,000 meals to share, on a first-come, first-served basis, from 1 to 3 p.m.

Christmas Eve will see meals distributed at three other sites: First Baptist Church, 1201 N Robinson St., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Northeast Community Center, 3815 N Kelley Ave., from 2 to 4 p.m., and The Boys & Girls Club, 2525 N. Western Ave., from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

In addition, a Christmas Eve toy giveaway will be held from 9 a.m. to noon, or while supplies last, at the Oklahoma City Dodgers’ Joe Carter Parking Lot, 400 E Reno Ave.

The undertaking will involve about 200 volunteers. In addition, even dog food will be available, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous veterinarian who donated 1,000 pounds’ worth.

The originator of the Red Andrews Dinner was a former legislator, Ernest "Red" Andrews, who began offering free holiday dinners in the 1920s in Tulsa, and kept the tradition going when he moved to Oklahoma City in the late 1940s.

Andrews died in 1977, but family, friends and volunteers kept the dinner it going. The dinner foundation was created in 2012 to ensure the event’s future.

This year’s dinner will look unlike any other, but will be every bit as impactful for recipients and for volunteers.

“It’s been incredible to witness Oklahomans working together in the spirit of serving our neighbors,” Pointer said. Incredible, but not at all surprising. A big thank-you is extended to everyone who had a hand in making it possible.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Kelly Dyer Fry, Publisher, Editor and Vice President of News; Owen Canfield, Opinion Editor; and Ray Carter, Chief Editorial Writer.. To submit a letter to the editor, go to this page or email... Read more ›