By Natasha Brown

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s a Thanksgiving tradition that means so much to so many. The Philadelphia Police Department held their 52nd annual Operation Thanksgiving Tuesday across the city to show gratitude and give to those less fortunate. 

Police officers from multiple districts packed boxes filled with all the items for a traditional Thanksgiving meal to be delivered to those in need. They’re providing dinner baskets to 315 families across the city.

Philadelphia Police Department Holds Annual Operation Thanksgiving

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“Thirty seven years we’ve been doing this,” one woman said. “We have 21 districts and out of each district, we average 15 to 20 families that we’re able to feed.”

The vans were loaded up with boxes filled with turkey, stuffing, and all the trimmings.  This year’s boxes will contain a special note from Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw.

“How amazing is it to open a note from a total stranger, right?” Outlaw said. “That’s happened to me, I don’t know how many times.”

“Sometimes I’ll get a note in my office, just a note or words of encouragement to let them know that they’re not on their own,” she added. “I’m just glad to be a part of it. I’m glad to be the signature, but I also need folks to know that it’s not me behind this. This is the hard work of the people in that garage there.”

Philadelphia Police Department Holds 52nd Annual Operation Thanksgiving

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The assembly line continued throughout the morning with officers getting in the holiday spirit. 

“It shows the human beings behind the badge here,” Outlaw said. “There’s hearts behind these badges. These folks put their own money together to do this every year long before my arrival and they’ve been doing this on their own out of the kindness of their heart because they care.”

Once the boxes arrive at their destinations, grateful families embrace officers not just protecting their communities but showing the true meaning of serving as well.

“This is a great part of the holidays that I enjoy the most,” one officer said.

A man who received a Thanksgiving meal said he couldn’t be any more grateful.

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Department employees donated more than $11,000 to cover the cost of the boxes.