Volunteers serve up Thanksgiving for homeless and hungry in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Hundreds of volunteers spent their Thanksgiving feeding about 1,000 homeless and hungry at the Cook Convention Center downtown.

For Stacy Dodd, director of operations for Turning Point, which helps those struggling with drug problems, helping out isn't only important — it's personal.

He used to be homeless himself.

"For me, remembering the feelings that I had when I was homeless and then being able to be on the other side of that and look into their eyes and be able to help them and give them hope, that's the mission," he said.

Volunteers spent days setting up and prepping the feast, and there are so many people who want to help, some actually end up being turned away.

"They get more out of it than some of the guests being served because they want to do it. They're passionate about it," said Earl Sayles, dinner director at the convention center. "They want to do it, and they need to do it for their own souls."

The dinner has been feeding the city's hungry for more than three decades.

"Being served is a big deal," Sayles said. "It's not a buffet — we serve them. And that's probably one of the few times where they get served and dealt with, with dignity and respect, because they are our guests."

But the meal is just one perk. People were also given free flu shots, toiletries, and cold-weather accessories, like scarves and hats.

Seeing the gratitude in people's eyes when they get to sit down for that turkey dinner is worth it for the people who work behind the scenes to make it all happen.

"Somebody may hug you or look you in the eye and just say something to you that just warms your heart, and that makes you agree to do it year after year after year," Sayles said.