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FRANKS GIVING: Hotdogs for the Homeless feeds the Metro’s needy all year round

Photo courtesy of Hotdogs for the Homeless
Hotdogs for the Homeless founder, Rick Swyden, with volunteers and recipients.
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OKLAHOMA CITY—Fifteen years ago, Rick Swyden was spending the day in San Antonio with family and friends when he ran across a homeless man on New Year’s Eve. Even though he was absolutely covered in filth, Swyden remembers the man had piercing, almost “angelic” blue eyes that really “affected” him.

Catching up with his family at a local food court a few minutes later, Swyden spied an A&W Root Beer stand and decided to take the homeless man a plate of food, but all that was left were hot dogs. Ordering up a few wieners and fries, he took off to look for the man, to no avail. Ready to give up, eventually he found a destitute couple carrying all of their belongings on a “taped-together two-wheeler” who were extremely grateful for the meal.

“It really affected me, it really got to me,” Swyden admitted. “I was in a pretty emotional state because, at that time in my life, my wife had breast cancer, we had all these hospital bills, and it was all so overwhelming. After giving away these hot dogs, I went back to my hotel room and I just started crying. I was happy and depressed at the same time, it was a really weird type of feeling that I still can’t explain.”

Feeling charged with a mission, when Swyden came home from the trip, that Sunday he bought two packages of hot dogs, two packages of buns, some water bottles and grabbed a pocketful of mustard and ketchup packets from the Wal-Mart snack-bar and passed out sixteen lunches downtown.

“I didn’t know what I was doing, but I just felt led to do this,” Swyden said. “Eventually, sixteen led to twenty-four and so on. I didn’t have the money to do this, yet somehow the money came and I made a deal with God that if “He provides, I’ll divide.”  The neighbors saw me taking these boxes out and soon I found donations on my porch and volunteers ready to pitch in to make these lunches, ballooning into the group that it is now fifteen years later.”

Swyden estimates that over the past decade and a half, his subsequent group, Hotdogs for the Homeless, have served over 200,000 frankfurters the area’s homeless. And even though there’s no telling who’ll show up to help and who won’t—Swyden said there’ll be “fifty one Sunday and two or three another”—he’s managed to keep his deal with God and vice-versa, always and without fail sending at least 200 hot dogs out onto the streets every week.

Always needing a few extra hands, anyone looking to help put together and pass out lunches is encouraged to meet at the “For Lease” space next to the Old School Bagel Café, 10946 N. May Ave., every Sunday at 10:45 a.m. More info is available here:

Swyden said that to this day, it still chokes him up to see how a little bit of generosity can “change people’s lives,” not only for the people receiving the hot dogs but for those doling them out as well. That being said, he also hopes, with the upcoming holiday season, that people remember the homeless are also hungry all year ‘round, not just on the holidays.

“You hear all these stories about feeding the homeless on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I think, hey, they’re also there in January, February…hungry in the cold,” Swyden added. “But, I guess maybe that’s the reason why I’m here and why what we do is here. Every little bit helps and, you know, even after fifteen years, I still look forward to it every Sunday.”

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Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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