Blessings and bounty abounded Thursday as the 43rd annual Thanksgiving Community Feast, organized by Saugatuck Congregational Church, welcomed hundreds to share a banquet -- and the holiday's true spirit.

In addition to Saugatuck Congregational Church -- still displaced from its fire-damaged home -- the feast this year was co-sponsored by Temple Israel and the Unitarian Church, and hosted once again by Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

"More than ever, this is a community feast," said the Rev. Alison Patton of Saugatuck Congregational, noting that not only did several religious congregations facilitate the event, but approximately 170 volunteers pitched in to prepare and serve the dinner.

"It's the first year I've done it," said volunteer Birdie Dandrea of Fairfield. "I think those of us who are blessed have to remember those who may not be."

Joy Davidson, who has moved from Westport to Darien, volunteered again Thursday as she had for 35 years. "It just feels so good," she said. "We don't have anything like it in Darien."

Along with hundreds of pounds of produce, 42 turkeys were cooked at the homes of volunteers, who brought them to Christ & Holy Trinity hall Thursday morning in time for the dinner's 11 a.m. start.

"It's amazing," said attendee Jonathan Wiegand of Westport, whose family was away for the holiday. "It's better than my grandmother's."

"It's better than staying home and watching the walls melt," said diner Milt Marhoffer of Westport, who came to the feast because he felt like being around people.

"Everyone in Westport has been so generous and welcoming and friendly," said Peter Levy, whose family recently moved to Westport.

"We just wanted to do something in the community and wanted to give back," added Levy's wife, Melissa.

"A common theme is joy," said Frank Basler, coordinator of the event.

Despite the massive undertaking, he said there isn't much he needs to do in his role. "This is a wonderful example of a self-organizing system," he said, as all the past area leaders step up and make it happen. "They bring passion and confidence," he said. "It happens without a lot of guidance.

Matt Dembski of Westport showed up in the morning with several turkeys his family had prepared.

"We do it for the church every year," he said. "It's nice to help out."

"It's our first year," said volunteer Jennifer Derrickson of Newtown. "It's wonderful. We're very happy to be here."

"It feels good and it's just nice to give to people," said C.J. Stephan, the oldest of three siblings helping at the event.

"And just because people can't afford to have Thanksgiving, doesn't mean they shouldn't have Thanksgiving," said his younger brother Ben.

"Plus it's good to help out the community," said youngest sister Kate.