By Eamon Baird
TROY — El Sombrero Restaurant is raffling off a quilt to help fund the restaurant’s annual free Thanksgiving dinner offered to the public. Raffle tickets cost $5 each, or five for $20.
The restaurant will serve free Thanksgiving meals for the residents of Troy for the 29th time. This year is especially significant as the owner and founder of El Sombrero, Ruben Pelayo, deals with health issues.
Mark Earhart, the marketing representative of El Sombrero, has known Pelayo since he moved to the area from Mexico. He discussed how Pelayo got the idea to offer a free Thanksgiving meal.
“Ruben’s mother did it once a year when she was in Mexico when he was a child. She would invite everybody in their town to eat, and she would feed these people. And it stuck in his mind that he wanted to do that when he got here and was successful enough to afford it,” Earhart said.
Pelayo started offering free Thanksgiving meals to feed the community in 1995. In November of 1998, El Sombrero moved to its current location.
In 2020, COVID-19 restrictions forced the restaurant to serve the meals in containers. The annual free meal will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 23. Last year, over 3,000 meals were served through the assistance of 30 volunteers.
The quilt being raffled off is one of the 66 included in the part of the barn quilt tour of Miami County. A mural of the double wedding ring quilt is located at 4910 W. State Route 185 in Piqua.
Earhart explained how the quilt mural project started.
“Judy Rose and Evelyn Schaefer started the garden club project, and they went around to all of the barns Evelyn knew about and put out all of the quilts,” Earhart said.
Artist Rafael Santoyo, a friend of Pelayo’s, painted the murals on the sides of barns throughout the county commemorating Miami County’s bicentennial in 2007, including the double wedding ring quilt and a cactus mural on the side of El Sombrero’s Restaurant.
Rose was El Sombrero’s business manager when they opened the Troy location in 1995. Rose, who Pelayo referred to as his American “mom,” passed away on Sept. 22, 2022.
Earhart talked about the kind of person Pelayo is to host these Thanksgiving meals every year.
“He has a heart to give back, and I mean, he is just a great person,” Earhart said.
Anyone wanting to purchase raffle tickets for the quilt or volunteer their time for the Thanksgiving meal can stop by El Sombrero Restaurant at 1700 N. County Road 25A in Troy. All proceeds from the raffle will go directly to funding this year’s free meal.
The drawing for the quilt will be on the day before Thanksgiving on Nov. 22, and the winner will be notified by phone.