NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In what amounts to as big a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and stuffing, volunteers got together Thursday to help those who might otherwise go hungry.

As CBS2’s Scott Rapoport reported, more than 3,000 selfless cooks turned out at the Goddard Riverside Community Center on the Upper West Side. They took precious time from their own families to cook, carve, and personally serve a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings – for strangers.

“I’m very thankful, and it’s almost indescribable,” said John Keating.

Keating and Laura Brantley said they would otherwise not have a Thanksgiving meal at all.

“Beautiful. Beautiful,” Brantley said. “Never really saw anything like this. Never. Once in a lifetime.”

At the community center, good food and good cheer will always be on the menu,

“We spend a lot of time taking care of ourselves, and it’s good to take care of other people when you can,” Said volunteer Walli Blum.

“It’s more important to do the work than just write out a check to some kind of charity,” said volunteer Doris Finkle.

Organizers said say the meal has been an Upper West Side tradition for more than 40 years.

“There is a real need in this city for food,” said Goddard Community Center executive director Stephen Russo. “The issue of hunger is still a very important issue.”

And all the food at the center, from the turkey to the pie and the bread, came from donations.

The personal interaction and the volunteering of one’s time – the simple act of caring enough to do it – comes from the heart.

Evie Joselow has been volunteering for 20 years.

“I love giving back,” she said. “I love being part of a community.”

The volunteers were to serve free meals to more than 1,000 people.

As 1010 WINS’ Darius Radzius reported, volunteers also stepped away from their own tables to put food on others at the Real Life Church, in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx.

The Rev. Reggie Stutzman, pastor of the church, has been holding the event for five years in an area of the Bronx with a lot of need.

“People want to say they’re helping, but I want to show that a church is helping the community,” Stutzman said.

At the event, volunteers also donate coats, backpacks and other items.

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