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Hundreds Of Volunteers Serve Thanksgiving Dinner At Upper West Side Community Center

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Giving was on the menu for hundreds of volunteers on the Upper West Side this Thanksgiving.

More than 300 selfless souls, all volunteers, took precious time from their own families to cook, carve and personally serve a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings for strangers in a place where abject hunger and need intersect at the corner of kindness and caring.

"It's important to help people," one volunteer said.

"It's giving of yourself," volunteer Doris Finkel said.

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At the annual Thanksgiving Day community dinner at the Goddard Riverside Community Center on the Upper West Side, good food, good cheer and goodwill are always on the menu.

"Providing a meal and a warm place on a cold day is what family is all about," volunteer Diane Lifton said.

They will serve more than 1,000 meals on Thanksgiving to people like Mayonde Gowon, who might otherwise not have a proper Thanksgiving dinner.

"You have a feeling that people here care about you. They're not just handing you a meal. They genuinely care," Gowon said.

Organizers say the meal has been an Upper West Side tradition for more than 30 years.

"The need is great and it's growing every day. There are people who wouldn't have a place to be for the holidays, or to eat," said Roderick Jones, executive director of the community center.

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For many of the volunteers, it's a calling. They come back year after year.

"And experience what it's like to give something to someone else without expecting anything in return," volunteer Walli Blumm said.

The goodwill comes in all ages. CBSN New York's Scott Rapoport's sons, Jake and Chace, have been helping out for several years.

"I wanna help people who can't do it themselves," Jake said.

It is the gift of giving, giving of one's time to help make someone else's life better – the heartbeat of the holiday.

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