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Man holds massive Thanksgiving dinner for strangers each year: It gives people 'a place to go'

For more than three decades, Scott Macaulay has prepared a Thanksgiving meal for any stranger who simply says they’ll be there. But, for Macaulay, the good deed isn’t about the food.

“I’m not the greatest cook. I try, but it’s a place to go,” Macaulay told WFXT. “There are a lot of places that provide Thanksgiving dinner to a home and that’s wonderful but I’m trying to avoid someone sitting by themselves.”

It all started in 1985. With his parents split, and after going through a divorce himself, Macaulay found himself spending Thanksgiving alone. So, the Melrose man placed an ad in the local paper and invited 12 strangers to join him for Thanksgiving dinner at his home.

Now, 33 years later, Macaulay, 57, feeds between 60 to 100 people at Melrose’s Green Street Baptist Church — and has vowed to never turn anyone away.

“The whole idea of this is to replicate somebody’s home,” he previously told PEOPLE in 2017. “I bring in sofas, oriental rugs and fake fireplaces so that everyone will feel like they’re in somebody’s living room. Then, I put myself in charge of the cooking and some of the guests chip in to serve dinner and clean up.”

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Over the years, Macaulay has served widows, widowers, college students, the homeless, and has made lifelong friends, he said. He recalled to PEOPLE one of his favorite memories in which a woman who hadn’t been out of her nursing home in seven years paid $200 for an ambulance to take her to the Thanksgiving feast.

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“They brought her in on a hospital bed, all decked out, and she cried when the dinner was over,” he recalled to PEOPLE, noting that the woman responded to his annual ad. “She didn’t want to go home.”

Macaulay’s adult son, Walter, helps him with the preparation each year. And Macaulay has no shortage of heart wrenching stories as a result of the tradition.

“One year, a man who’d just lost his wife put on her apron and helped do the dishes,” Macaulay told PEOPLE. “That’s what this is all about. It’s not about the food. It’s about being together. Nobody should have to eat Thanksgiving dinner alone.”

Another year, his ex-wife showed up with her new husband and played the piano for everyone for an hour. Macaulay recalled the moment with a laugh.

Macaulay, who owns Macaulay’s House of Vacuum Cleaners, begins preparing for the big dinner about a week before Thanksgiving Day, according to the Washington Post .

The grocery list includes four turkeys, five types of pie, stuffing, gravy, fruit, buttered rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy and sweet potatoes.

The father of one has kept scrapbooks from past Thanksgivings and invites guests to write down what they’re thankful for.

“That changes the outlook, from whatever reason they’re coming to the dinner to a positive outlook because you start concentrating on what you’re thankful for,” he told WFXT.

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