BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Thanksgiving is typically a day spent with family and loved ones, but what happens when you live far away from your family or have no family left?
While food pantries and religious organizations across South Mississippi are feeding Thanksgiving meals to the homeless and the needy, one Coast restaurant has been doing things a little bit differently for the last five years.
In 2014, Henry Wintzell Sr. started a Thanksgiving tradition that has lived on a year after his passing.
“When my dad first wanted to do this I was kind of, I don’t want to say skeptical, you know, but I grew up traditionally, Thanksgiving is all about sitting at home with your immediate family, you know," said Henry Wintzell, Jr., the owner of Slap Ya Momma’s.
Now that Slap Ya Momma’s is giving a free meal to all that walk in, for Wintzell, it’s important to pass this message on to his kids, as it was passed on to him.
“Harrison, he’s five years old, so he’s grown up, this is the only Thanksgiving he knows, you know what I mean. The boys, they love it. I’m glad that I get to somewhat show, I think more, what Thanksgiving should be about," Wintzell said.
His boys all had a job, if not one of the most important jobs, in the whole restaurant.
“Cutting pie,” said the Wintzell boys, Cohen, Harrison and Saylor.
Working on Thanksgiving has its own set of challenges. For General Manager Ava King, this is one of the best days of work for her and her team.
“We have people that we work for that genuinely care about your family and make you feel like you are welcome. It’s just wonderful to work for people that care about you and your well-being," King said.
For Wintzell, the day is all about family.
“Some families that come in here, this is all they have. Some are deployed down here, they don’t have their immediate family. They’re just here in the military. Some are homeless. Some are at work, like cops and stuff. They’re out here on the job and can go home, so they swing in here and get something to eat . Just being able to see people sit around and feel like they’re a part of something, part of a family, that’s my favorite part of the day," Wintzell said.