LIVERMORE -- For 30 years, East Bay residents -- even those far away from family and friends -- have had a standing invitation for Thanksgiving dinner.

As many as 1,000 people now flock to the Bothwell Arts Center each year for the promise of turkey and pie, live music and company.

The attentive service is another plus.

"May I take your dessert order?" 11-year-old Jordan Moscuzza asked the guests at one table.

Jordan and his brother Josh, 13, were two of the 500 people who volunteered to help at the Livermore Community Thanksgiving Dinner this year. While others had set up the fall floral arrangements and other decorations or helped prepare and serve the food, the boys' main job was to make sure everyone had what they needed -- namely, their pumpkin or apple pie.

Mayor John Marchand, center, serves coffee to diners during the 31st annual Livermore Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov. 28, 2013 in Livermore.
Mayor John Marchand, center, serves coffee to diners during the 31st annual Livermore Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov. 28, 2013 in Livermore. (Aric Crabb/Staff)

"It makes you feel good after you get to see all the people you're helping," Josh said, before getting back to work. "This is a really special holiday."

The room was packed and noisy. A man played a banjo on a corner stage as guests ate and volunteers bustled around with trays and carts of dessert.

The free community dinner has grown steadily since 1983, when Randy Moore and his friends started hosting the event so no one would have to be alone on Thanksgiving. That first year, it drew about 250 people.

Now, including meal deliveries, the event serves about 1,200 dinners, including the volunteers -- families with young children, seniors, homeless people, veterans from the nearby VA hospital.

"We serve everybody who walks through the door," he said.

By 1:30 p.m., a line began to stretch down Eighth Street outside of the arts center.

Dixie Cottier came all the way from Tracy with her daughter, her friend and her friend's family. It's become a tradition.

"The food's good, the gravy's awesome, and you don't have to cook," she said, just as a volunteer approached, wondering if she'd like some coffee with her pumpkin cheesecake.

"I just like that they're able to do this for us."