By Kelsey Kushner

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Thanksgiving is a time to be surrounded by family members but that’s not always possible for some people, that’s where the Bea Gaddy center steps in.

Families lined up here at Patterson Park today to get a meal and a bag full of essentials. Volunteers say it’s important on days like today to give back.

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Ronnie Williams was up super early Thursday morning helping to prepare Thanksgiving meals with all the fixings.

Williams, her husband and her sister-in-law -signed up to volunteer with the Bea Gaddy Center to hand out thousands of meals to those in need. This is their first year helping out.

“It’s not what I expected but it is better than what I expected,” said Williams.

Families waited in line outside the Recreation Center in Patterson Park.

“It’s helpful for me because it gives me strength to go on. It gives me encouragement to go on,” said Damon English.

It’s a tradition 40 years in the making.

“It’s so heartwarming to be able to help,” said Cynthia Brooks, Director of Bea Gaddy Center.

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It all started with Cynthia Brooks’ mother Bea Gaddy, who told her daughter on her death bed to keep serving her community.

“That was 20 years ago. She never gave any instructions on when to stop so as a family we keep pushing through,” said Brooks.

“It’s not Thanksgiving if we don’t start it off with Bea Gaddy,” said Gabi Pisciotta.

Dozens of volunteers put together bags filled with essentials hoping to make a difference

“Being out here actively supporting the community feels really good personally,” said Nick Pisciotta.

For people like Williams, she says she knows what it’s like to be on the other side and knows how important it is to give back.

“I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth so I definitely understand,” Williams added. “When you have more you have to pay it forward and this is part of that.”

Brooks said they were able to serve 10,000 families.

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Kelsey Kushner