Daddy Bruce’s Thanksgiving Feed-A-Family event continues even as inflation hits food prices – Denverite

The holidays are almost here, but rising food costs and supply chain issues may affect what goes on the dinner table — and how organizations and food banks looking to do good go about their missions.

Food prices are expected to be up 9.5% to 10.5% this year, according to the Associated Press. Turkey prices may hit $1.77 per pound —  a 28% increase from last year.

The Epworth Foundation, which has distributed Thanksgiving meals for the past 20 years through Denver Feed-A-Family, has run into some challenges this year with funding being limited and its usual major partner not being available because of supply chain issues.

But the foundation says it’s committed to continuing the legacy and tradition started by “Daddy” Bruce Randolph, a community leader, philanthropist and restaurateur.

"Daddy" Bruce Randolph holds a street sign that bears his name during a ceremony in 1984 or 1985. Mayor Federico Pena, City Councilman Hiawatha Davis, and other men stand nearby.
Denver Public Library/Western History Collection/ARL-229

In the 1960s, Randolph started serving people free Thanksgiving dinners from his restaurant, Daddy Bruce’s Bar-B-Q.

It was a simple social event for folks who needed or wanted a place to go to hang with the community. It started with maybe a few hundred people but it quickly grew into the thousands. Through his charismatic and giving personality, Randolph was able to get donations and assistance from other community organizations, such as the Denver Broncos and Denver Police. He would cook up tons of turkey, ribs, dressing, potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce and he continued to do so until he passed in 1994.

The Foundation later took over the meal distribution, but in recent years, keeping up the tradition has been difficult.

“In the past, we were able to feed a whole family for $35, whereas now our food cost is $50 per person,” said Xiomara Yanique, Program Coordinator with the Epworth Foundation. “The last couple of years, we’ve been going back and forth with a lot of different things from supply shortages to higher costs. We’ve learned how to pivot and have a contingency plan. Last year, we ended up having to distribute gift cards in order to make it happen because we were not able to source food. We started preparing earlier to make it happen this year.”

A long line of volunteers at work for the annual Denver Feed a Family event on Bruce Randolph Avenue in Cole. Nov. 21, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Last year, the Foundation handed out 7,500 Walmart gift cards due to supply shortages.

As Yanique said, the organization began preparing for this year’s Thanksgiving very early. In May, they ordered turkeys to ensure they’d be available for the giveaway. But even early preparation isn’t enough to circumvent costs.

Usually, the Foundation works with Walmart, which provides the food, boxes and storage. But this year, Yanique said Walmart was experiencing its own issues with supply and couldn’t be the vendor. Now, the Foundation is working with Kroger and, with change, come unforeseen issues.

“We’ve had a longstanding relationship with Walmart, so every year it’s been like a family reunion, you show up and it just happens,” Yanique said. “Now, we’ve had to outsource items we’d typically never worried about before. There’s no delivery, so picking up food is an added cost. Getting trailers to store the food is an added cost. Even something as simple as boxes. We’d aren’t getting them this year and that’s an added cost.”

Cost has been a major factor in this year’s giveaway. Typically fundraising was handled by Rev. Ronald Wooding, but he passed earlier this year.

Pastor Ron Wooding presents awards to supporters. Daddy Bruce Randolph is honored at the Colorado State Capitol, Feb. 20, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; daddy bruce randolph;

Wooding was instrumental in continuing Daddy Bruce’s Thanksgiving.

In 2002, the giveaway was almost canceled for good, but Wooding reached out to Elder King Harris for help.

“I got a call from my assistant pastor at the time, Ronald Wooding God rest his soul, called me and said ‘They’re not going to do Daddy Bruce Thanksgiving this year’, and my first response was, well that’s too bad. He said ‘no, you don’t understand Pastor. They aren’t going to do it all. We need to do something about it,’” Harris said. “Ronald was an insistent man.”

From then on, Harris said Wooding became the lead fundraiser.

“We’re so far behind because Ronald would take care of that,” Harris said. “There are people in the community who used to call him the new Daddy Bruce. He was very attached to this program. It was one of those things he absolutely loved.”

Harris and Yanique agree that the challenges this year have been great, but the show will go on.

Volunteers pack boxes with Thanksgiving meals before daybreak during the annual Denver Feed a Family event on Bruce Randolph Avenue. Nov. 21, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Denver Feed-A-Family will be distributing boxes at 1865 Bruce Randolph Avenue Nov. 19.

If you’re in need you can sign up here.

The goal this year was to distribute 5,000 boxes, but the organization is short about $117,000 to meet that goal. Denver Feed-A-Family will instead give out about 4,000 baskets.

The Foundation is still accepting financial donations, which can be sent here. Councilmember Candi CdeBaca’s office is also collecting donations for the event through a GoFundMe.

Besides hosting the Thanksgiving meal giveaway, the Foundation also offers a number of other services for Denverites.

On Tuesday and Thursday, the Foundation runs a food bank. It also runs a family reunification program that provides advocate assistance and transportation for parents or guardians working with Denver Human Services to regain custody of children.

When school is out, the Foundation runs a talent camp for kids that includes breakfast, lunch, snack and field trips for $25 a week. The organization also works with the The Fly Girls and Boys Bessie Coleman Denver Chapter, which teaches youth aviation skills.

The annual Denver Feed a Family event on Bruce Randolph Avenue in Cole. Nov. 21, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

But for now the focus is on the Thanksgiving giveaway. Yanique said things will run drive-thru style and volunteers are needed to set up overnight and during the day. If you’re interested in volunteering or donating, visit the Foundation’s website here.

She added that regardless of shortages or other issues that may arise, Denver Feed-A-Family will happen for many Thanksgivings to come.

“We’re going to continue the tradition,” Yanique said. “We’re going to start looking for fiscal donors earlier as well. If we say we’re going to do something and we’re going to do it. We operate through 100% volunteer work and all the money we raise goes towards all our programs.”

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