It was still two days until Thanksgiving, but Hunter Moody and his friend Michael Marceaux woke up early, prepped 24 turkeys and began the eight-hour smoking process promptly at 6:30 a.m. They delivered the juicy, golden-brown smoked birds that afternoon to St. Joseph Diner to help feed the anticipated 150 to 200 hungry patrons on Thanksgiving Day.

The diner provides free lunch meals every day of the year to anyone who is hungry, but Sarah Clement, development director for Catholic Services of Acadiana, the parent agency for the diner, said Thanksgiving is a special time at St. Joseph Diner.

It is a time for the hungry who come “to be happy, fed and feel like they’re part of the community,” she said.

This is the third year Moody and Marceaux have used Moody’s industrial-sized smoker to provide some of the food served at the diner during the holiday season.

Clement said the men approached the organization a few years ago asking to do something around the holidays.

Moody, who does a lot of catering, said, “I’ve got this wonderful smoker, why not use it for good?”

Moody, with his cooking background and expertise with the smoker, provides the cooking skills, while Marceaux and his business, Cool Blu Pools, provide the supplies, namely the many turkeys.

Originally, the pair cooked a few turkeys to feed families who were using some of what were then the Catholic Services’ transitional apartments. From there, it evolved to this year’s 24 birds to be served at St. Joseph Diner.

“I would say that those turkeys go a long way to feeding everyone,” Clement said.

But it doesn’t end with just the food.

Thanksgiving Day is already booked full of volunteers at the diner who are happy to be a part of something bigger than themselves, Clement said.

“The people that receive that compassion, that sort of family attitude, are grateful,” she added.

Many people in the community give, Moody said, and it feels good to be a part of that giving.

Marceaux agreed that the giving to others was his favorite part of the experience, but said spending a day off work cooking and essentially tailgating with friends is always fun.

Marceaux said he and Moody watched their parents give so much growing up and that was what inspired them to give back.

Now, the two men are grown and raising their own children.

They said this is a way to provide a good example to their children like the one their parents provided to them when they were growing up.

Moody said their experience with the diner is always a positive one. The kitchen is beautiful and clean, the volunteers are friendly and even the less fortunate waiting in line are eager to lend a helping hand, he said.

The two men said there is no end in sight, and they hope to continue cooking turkeys for the diner for years to come.

Marceaux said they weren’t seeking publicity for what they were doing, but if their story motivates anyone to give back or help the community, then he’ll be happy with that result.

Moody agreed and added, “Cooking and giving these turkeys is the highlight of our own Thanksgiving.”

Clement said volunteer spots for Thanksgiving and Christmas are booked, but there are times available year- round, which can be found on the organization’s website