It's been a tradition in Oklahoma City for more than 60 years, but it seems the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner is no more.
For more than 60 years, the event has provided a hot meal on Christmas Day for thousands of needy families. Red Andrews' 60-year-old great-nephew Bob McCord has been organizing the event for the last decade, but both he and his wife are struggling with health issues. He said he finally came to the heartbreaking decision that he could no longer head the massive effort needed to put on the event.
"Oh, it's terrible. I cried over it."
McCord says his wife has had two heart attacks, so he recently had to return to work. He'd hoped his son would take over, but he's a diabetic and struggling with his own health problems. He also spoke with other family members, but no one was able to dedicate the time and effort it takes to organize the dinner.
"It usually takes about a month of some really good running to get that thing together. It takes a massive food effort, a lot of footwork. There's a lot of people to deal with it," said McCord. "And I just can't do it anymore. "
Red Andrews was a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives for 20 years, from 1952 to 1972. But the dinner originated back in the 1920s when Andrews was a boxing and wrestling promoter living in Tulsa. He'd bring friends who had nowhere to go on Christmas Day to his home for dinner.
Andrews later moved to Oklahoma City, and the first official Red Andrews Christmas Dinner happened in 1945, with about 100 guests. Since then, the event has grown into a huge effort that not only fed thousands of families every Christmas, but also provided Christmas gifts for children.
The event relied on donations of money, food, and toys from groups and individuals, but McCord is asking people to stop sending donations for the dinner. He said if people sent donations by mail, he will try to return them. Otherwise, he'll send the donations on to other charitable organizations.
McCord says he's been participating in the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner as long as he can remember.
"When I was a kid, I was part of the dinner. I was always there. When I got older, I used to stand there and walk around those halls. I loved to walk around and talk to the kids and push a cart that was full of milk and pop, and just talk to the people. I'd just stand there and look and say, "God, it's amazing how many people are here."
McCord says he's incredibly sad he cannot continue the much-loved tradition.
"I'm really sorry it has to be this way, but I just don't feel it can be any other way."