Local restaurant opens for a free Thanksgiving dinner

November 23, 2018

HUNTINGTON — For most of her life, Tinia Creamer had big, family Thanksgivings. Until tragedy struck.

“My siblings died in the Emmons Apartments fire,” Creamer said. “I had two younger brothers and a sister, and my dad died shortly after. We had this big family, then we were left with nothing.”

But then Creamer met Jose Sotelo, owner of the Tenampas restaurants in Huntington and Lavalette. About four years ago, they started talking about Thanksgiving and how Sotelo and other employees from Mexico didn’t really do anything for the American holiday.

“He said he thought a lot of his guys would enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and I said ‘Let’s do it at your restaurant,’” Creamer said. And thus a new tradition was born.

For the third year, Sotelo and Creamer hosted a free Thanksgiving dinner at West Tenampa in Central City. They open their doors to anyone who is without a place to go for the holiday.

Sotelo buys the food and Creamer prepares it in his kitchen, this year with the help of her mother- and sister-in-law. Since it’s prepared in a commercial kitchen, they donate any leftovers to the Huntington City Mission.

“I run a non-profit, Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue, and it turns out a lot of my volunteers don’t have anywhere to go,” she said. “We just had a horse trainer that uprooted her entire life from Ohio to come and start working with our horses. She just came in three days ago and knows nobody, so she just fed all our horses in Lesage, she’s changing her boots and coming down.”

Audra Riley, a flight nurse, came Thursday with her two boys ages 2 and 3. She had just gotten off a 24-hour shift and her husband, a flight paramedic, was working. They get to have Thanksgiving dinner together Friday, but in the meantime the dinner Thursday allowed her to get out of the house and saved her from doing extra dishes.

Creamer said her favorite things are hearing about everyone’s Thanksgiving traditions or memories, and watching those who have never celebrated Thanksgiving make new memories.

“If you don’t grow up having traditional Thanksgiving, the way that the food is paired, it’s funny to watch,” she said. “We grew up having these dishes and there are certain things you put together. The first year we had this, I was like, ‘oh, well that’s a different way to pair those items.’”

Dinner on Thursday was followed by a karaoke session.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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