Local restaurants and caterers in and around Syosset are busily preparing to give meals to those in need Thursday.
In Syosset, the biggest dinner of the year is being held at North Shore Synagogue. Working with the Jewish War Veterans, the synagogue will bus about 200 veterans over for a full Thanksgiving dinner. Needy families often join the celebration, which begins at 12 p.m. Thursday.
Manor East caterers in Massapequa has been serving free dinners on Thanksgiving for five years, but there has never been a year where it's been more needed.
"We usually expect about 1,500 people," said Jillian Dyber, a banquet manager at the Jerusalem Avenue catering hall."Now we're expecting 3,500 plus."
The 2,000 extra table settings come courtesy of Superstorm Sandy, which has left many Long Islanders without a place to stay or with a kitchen to make a traditional meal.
But starting at noon Thursday Manor East will begin seating guests for their annual dinner.
"It'll be a full buffet with all the trimmings," Dyber said, promising that there will be white and dark meat turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and a host other dishes.
But the most important promise is the one they make every year.
"We'll stay until everyone who wants to be served is served," Dyber said.
People come to the dinner from all around Long Island and the metropolitan area.
"A lot of people are coming from Queens, we have people coming from Lindenhurst, which was hit hard and Long Beach," Dyber said. "And of course, areas of Massapequa near the coast were also hurt."
The idea for the dinner came from owner Richie Bivona, who decided to put it together after reading an article about hunger.
It's been growing ever since and many in the community are contributing. While Manor East contributes most of the food, they do serve some donated items. Organizations also donate things like coloring books for younger guests.
Volunteers also contact the caterer to help serve the meals.
"We've received about 200 more calls than usual," Dyber said. We've had to turn some [volunteers] away."
Several public officials are also expected to be on hand to help serve.
Massapequa isn't the only community in the area serving a free dinner Thursday.
In Glen Cove, meals will be served from Noon to 3 p.m. in the Cafeteria of St. Patrick's Church.
North Shore INN at First Baptist Church has a meal at noon.