Burns Original BBQ supports community by feeding families in need during pandemic

HOUSTON – Tieviea Smith’s smile filled her face as she spoke about the food that would soon fill her belly.

“Yeah, I love it. They have the best ribs,” Smith, 10, exclaimed as she and her two sisters joined their mother, Latonya, in line for free Thanksgiving dinner Monday at Burns Original BBQ in the Acres Homes neighborhood.

“They’ve been here for years. And they always support the community. That’s one thing that’s been keeping them thriving,” Latonya Smith said about the neighborhood staple. 

The locally owned business has put on a free Thanksgiving dinner for years. In all, some 1,500 meals were prepared for Monday’s food drive. 

For Latonya Smith and her family, the chance for a free meal offered small relief during what has been trying times -- illustrated by the caravan of cars during a pandemic that’s left thousands of families among the food deficient.

“They just don’t know how bad all of us really needed it. We’re not just here because it’s free food. A lot of us are really struggling. We needed something to eat and they got everybody to come together,” Smith said.

The line outside of Burns Original BBQ wrapped the building, as staff and volunteers packed Styrofoam containers stuffed with turkey, sausage, dressing and other holiday treats into plastic bags. Carl Crawford, co-owner of Burns Original BBQ, said the annual free meal is the restaurant’s way of thanking the community for its support since it opened in 1973.

“Neighborhood of Acres Homes has been the spot for Burns BBQ, my family, for a long time; so, we’d like to show our appreciation. Giving back because they help keep the business running,” Crawford said.

Here lately, that support has gone a long way.

“Just want to be able to move on and to have a day like this to be able to forget about it and be able to put things behind you is a good feeling. It’s something everybody might need,” Crawford said.

The Crawford family hosted the food drive, along with Acres Homes native, rapper, and community leader, Slim Thug and his The BossLife Foundation. The 1501 Certified Entertainment, which was founded by Carl Crawford, also hosted the event, which included a visit from Acres Homes’ native son, Mayor Sylvester Turner.

“I am very grateful to the generosity of people, businesses, and others who are sharing what they have with those who don’t have nearly as much,” Mayor Turner said.

Turner also rolled up his sleeves and served meals to those who attended -- including Latonya Smith and her daughters. The Smith family snapped a picture with Turner on their way out.

Despite the year, Latonya Smith said Monday reinforced her conviction that she and the girls will be OK.

“It’s nothing but a blessing because we really needed this,” she said.

About the Author:

Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. NOLA born and bred, though #HoustonStrong, with stops in Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in along the way.