By Bryant Reed

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Hundreds of volunteers and thousands of people came together at Pitt today to exchange gifts, share a meal, and wish each other a merry Christmas.

On Christmas Day at Pitt, the university has opened its doors for more than 15 years now to celebrate with those who may not be as fortunate.

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It starts early in Oakland, with more than 200 volunteers setting up the annual event.

Volunteers hand out hot meals in the cafeteria while upstairs, they work to empty a room full of gifts for kids and adults dropped off St. Nick himself.

“It’s really important for us to be able to have a place that’s safe, warm, and happy for those that may not have anywhere else to go on Christmas Day,” said Jamie Ducar, the Director of Community Engagement and Community Affairs.

Leslie Ann Smedley says she’s volunteered off and on for 12 years now.

She says everybody has become her family and starting her day giving back is what’s most important to her.

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“When you give, you receive and I feel like this is a small thing that I can do that might help somebody less fortunate than I am in a lot of ways have a better day,” she said.

Kim Platt says his day is always made when he comes to celebrate.

“It’s a lot of camaraderie here and people treat you with respect and care,” Platt said.

Platt says he has plans to spend time with his own family later in the day but feels the event gives him the chance to create new friendships.

“People here are my extended family, I enjoy it,” he said. “Whoever is sponsoring this, it’s a great way to give back.”

Part of the Christmas gifts were hats and other cold-weather gear.

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Event organizers said they didn’t think they’d have some of them because of shipping delays, but that’s to a Christmas miracle, they got help from donations.