From Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul

Daddy Bruce Randolph

During the times of maladies, true bodhisattvas become the best holy men medicine; . . . during the times of famine they become food and drink. Having first alleviated thirst and hunger, they teach the dharma to living beings.

The Buddha Vimalakirinirdesha Sutra 8

“Daddy” Bruce Randolph was a chain smoker who used a white filter on his Winstons. It was his only vice. Mostly, the dapper man—around five-feet-eight and slightly built, who would never be seen in public without his hat, vest and coat—fed people.

At age sixty-one, he opened Daddy Bruce’s Barbecue Restaurant in the “Five Points” area, a poor section of Denver.

There is debate about whether his ribs were the best in town but no debate on the man himself. He was a gentle man, and he started a tradition that died with him, some thirty years after he opened his restaurant. He fed people—not just his customers, but the poor and the homeless.

Every Thanksgiving, Daddy and his son began cooking for the multitudes of homeless. He wanted them to have a great dinner on the one day this country celebrates its bounty.

About a week before, Daddy began making all the “fixin’s.” In the early years of his project, he paid for everything out-of-pocket. But as time went by, the costs skyrocketed as the crowds grew. That’s when Daddy’s admirers stepped in to help.

They donated tons of turkeys, potatoes, yams and ribs. And they donated their time to stand behind and beside the old man. Professional athletes, politicians, cops, nuns and clergy, as well as others volunteered to cook and serve. It was a rare moment to witness a Denver Bronco serving food to a man who lived in a cardboard box underneath a viaduct.

It seems there was an endless supply of food to feed the multitudes. No one ever walked away hungry from Daddy Bruce. It was Daddy who started the whole thing and supervised it until a few years ago when he edged toward ninety. He had become too old to work anymore.

He was one of the few people who lived to see a city street named in his honor. In 1991, Mayor Federico Peña renamed East Twenty-third Avenue “Bruce Randolph Boulevard.” A couple of years later, Daddy Bruce died. He lived modestly but well.

When asked why he volunteered to feed the thousands of poor and hungry people for over twenty-five years, his reply was simple. “You can’t beat love. Nothing beats love. If you give just one thing, you get three things back. That’s why I do it.” And he did it well.

Pat Mendoza

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