HUNTINGTON — Thanksgiving Day is about spending time with family, but what happens when you can’t get home, don’t have anyone left to go home to or — worst — your family rejects you for who you are?
With the help of The Cellar Door and other area businesses, Huntington Pride hosted a free Thanksgiving dinner for anyone who needed some food made with love Thursday.
“Thanksgiving is a time for family, but it’s also hard in the LGBTQ community because sometimes you aren’t accepted in your family,” said Ally Layman, Huntington Pride president. “You’ve been kicked out of your family and you sometimes feel you can’t be yourself. We want to make sure everybody knows they are a part of the Huntington community, that you are welcomed and that this is family. We are family.”
The Cellar Door donated staff and about half of the food. Logan Stickler, executive assistant at Le Bistro and The Cellar Door, prepared the turkey, which was donated by GFS Food Services. Texas Roadhouse donated corn and green beans, and Nomada Bakery donated rolls and some deserts.
Stickler said while he is fortunate to have family to go home to (he actually pushed back family dinner to participate Thursday), he was happy to be able contribute to the community dinner.
“People come together over food,” he said. “When this came up at the Pride meeting, I thought ‘This is what I do.’ I am really happy with the turnout. I’m very happy right now.”
Chris Craven, general manager of Le Bistro and The Cellar Door, said it was an easy decision to team up with Huntington Pride. They wanted to have the dinner and they had the space and the volunteers to do it.
Craven said he moved away to Chicago but came back to Huntington, and he realized he really loved the city and the positive direction in which it is moving. He decided to get involved with Huntington Pride because it is a young nonprofit that is making a big, positive impact.
“They have a lot of momentum and a lot of opportunity to push progress,” he said.
Marshall University Office of Student Activities worked to promote the event to its students. Director of Student Activities Dakota Maddox said there is a high population of students who can’t make it home for the Thanksgiving holiday, from international students to those who can’t afford a plane ticket home. The university also has a high LGBTQ population, she said.
“Now that we’ve seen we can do it and we can reach students, our goal for next year is to really push it more to come and have dinner,” Maddox said.
Layman said it feels amazing to have the support of so many local businesses.
“Our community is so awesome in Huntington,” she said. “We are all here together making sure everyone feels welcomed.”
Layman said they want everyone, LGBTQ or not, to feel welcome and a part of the family.
“Show some love,” she said. “Everything was made with love.”
The Cellar Door also is teaming up with Huntington Pride for Battle of the Bartenders on Sunday. Six local bartenders will create signature cocktails, each vying for the winning spot. All proceeds for the event will benefit Huntington Pride.
The bartender battle will be the first in a series of “battles” that will benefit new, promising nonprofits in the region.