Volunteers On Long Island Spend Long Hours Making Sure Tens Of Thousands In Need Get A Meal This Holiday Season

ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Thanksgiving tradition on Long Island is bigger than ever this year, and so is the need.

Hundreds of volunteers are working 12 hours per day in a unique assembly line called “Fill The Bag,” CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Monday.

Helping hands are working to meet a Thanksgiving deadline — with the accent on “giving.”

fillthebag Fill The Bag Thanksgiving Tradition Still Going Strong

Volunteers on Long Island are making sure that everyone who wants a meal will get one this Thanksgiving. (Photo: CBS2)

What started as a modest food drive, Fill The Bag now creates 17,000 bags of holiday fixings to feed more than 120,000 people, and it’s run like a well-oiled machine.

That’s something Mid Island Collison’s Bob Jesberger knows all about. The auto body shop owner donates more than $200,000 for five tractor trailer-loads of food.

“If you’re in business you have an obligation to help your community,” Jesberger said. “All businesses should be doing this, not just on the day of Thanksgiving but throughout the year.”

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He was helped by 500 volunteers who work 12-hour days to stuff bags and lift spirits.

“I have to give back and that’s what it’s about. It’s being thankful for what you have,” volunteer Deborah Dean said.

“This is my home. I’ve come here for five years. I work to open at 5 in the morning to closing Wednesday,” volunteer Sandy Mislin added.

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“All year you’re doing stuff for your own family. Now you can give to other families,” volunteer Steven Thomas said.

“It’s not about gifts and presents. It’s about someone having something on their table to eat this Thanksgiving,” Nadine Thomas added.

“I don’t care if you’re going to church or you’re going to mosque or synagogue or Hindi, these are the people living next door to you. You have to be here to help your neighbors,” another volunteer said.

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The food is heading to more than 100 agencies where the need is great.

“These are people, hard-working people with families who trying to make ends meet,” said Sydney Martin, the pastor of Destiny House. “All of us are a check or two away from being in this situation.”

Jesberger said he is thinking about taking “Fill The Bag” nationwide, encouraging more small business owners to give back and more volunteers to give their time.

“They give me back much more than I give them,” Jesberger said.

He and volunteers insist it’s the “giving” that makes the holiday.

Volunteers are welcome through Wednesday afternoon.