In 1985, Massachusetts resident Scott Macaulay spent his first Thanksgiving on his own after his parents divorced. But he didn't want to spend every holiday eating alone, so he said he decided to invite strangers over instead.
Macaulay bought an ad in the Melrose Free Press and asked for 12 strangers to join him for dinner.
“I bought all the stuff and made everything myself at my church,” he told PEOPLE, “and it was such a great Thanksgiving that I made a decision right there to keep it up.”
Today, he's spending time preparing for his 32nd year of having Thanksgiving dinner with strangers. The only difference? Now he serves 70 people at Melrose's Green Street Baptist Church, instead of just 12.
“The whole idea of this is to replicate somebody’s home,” he says. “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.”
Macaulay told PEOPLE that every year before he hosts the meal, he asks his guests to write down what they're thankful for.
“I save all of their submissions because it’s sentimental,” he said. “Most people are thankful for their health, while others are thankful for things like, ‘My son is now speaking to me.’ Everything always comes from the heart.”
He said he plans to get to the church around 5 a.m. on Thursday to start prepping the Thanksgiving dinner.
"It’s not about the food. It’s about being together. Nobody should have to eat Thanksgiving dinner alone,” Macaulay added.