daddy bruce outside of restaurant

Bruce Randolph outside of his restaurant. (Photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library)

The Denver City Council made a proclamation Monday honoring the legacy of Bruce Randolph, a local philanthropist responsible for feeding thousands of Denver’s needy every year on Thanksgiving.

Randolph, more popularly known as “Daddy Bruce,” opened his restaurant Daddy Bruce’s Bar-B-Que in 1963. Within the restaurant’s first year, Randolph, then 63, started the Daddy Bruce Thanksgiving Food Distribution.

The distribution continued annually, even after Randolph’s death in 1994 at the age of 94. Since then, the event was taken over by the Salem Baptist Church and eventually the Epworth Foundation.

“This will be the 58th year from the time Daddy Bruce started giving out food on Thanksgiving,” said Rev. Ronald Wooding, who has been involved with the distribution since 1995. “Daddy Bruce fed everyone, and he said he wanted to be like Jesus and feed 5,000.”

In one of his earliest distributions, Randolph drove to Denver’s City Park on Thanksgiving and gave away ribs to 200 people.

For years, Randolph used his own time and money to feed the community on Thanksgiving. Eventually, he began accepting donations and help from local celebrities, including the Denver Broncos, police officers and the clergy.

Over time, Randolph fed between 30,000 to 40,000 people on Thanksgiving alone by giving away free food boxes, Wooding said.

This year, due to supply chain constraints, the Epworth Foundation intends to distribute 7,500 gift cards to Denver families to allow them to purchase Thanksgiving meals. The foundation will also distribute 500 free meals on Thanksgiving Day. 

“This is an important annual tradition,” said Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, who has volunteered at the distribution since she was 13. “This year will look different, but it is still important to get our volunteers out there.”

The distribution is still seeking volunteers, CdeBaca said. Anyone who wants to be involved can come to the Epworth United Methodist Church on Thanksgiving Day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to help out.

In addition to the City Council’s annual proclamation, Randolph has also been honored through the naming of Bruce Randolph Avenue in 1985 and of the Bruce Randolph School in 2008, according to the Denver Public Library.