NEW YORK - It's an annual Christmas Day tradition for Elizabeth Irizarry and her family; instead of opening gifts all day at home, they head out to bring some much-needed cheer to others.
"Good morning, Merry Christmas!" the family shouted as an elderly man opened the door to his apartment on the West Side of Manhattan.
"We know it helps other people who don't have people, for us to go and make them happy for the holidays because no one should be alone for Christmas," said Hannah Brennan, Irizarry's young daughter.
The family delivers hot meals and gifts to the homebound elderly through Citymeals on Wheels. On Christmas Day alone, the organization prepped meals for and served 18,000 New Yorkers at their homes and another 3,000 seniors at meal centers like one in Hell's Kitchen.
"The holidays are particularly lonely, right? We all have memories of celebrations with our family, our friends and these are people who have outlived friends and families, often even their own children and they're alone," said Beth Shapiro, the executive director of Citymeals on Wheels.
"It makes me feel wonderful and it lifts my spirits," said one of the recipients.
"Nobody has been here for a while, ever since I broke my arm," said another elderly man. "I only talk to them on the phone. I haven't seen anybody live until this moment."
And that is why volunteers like this family do what they do. It is not just to bring a warm meal but to let other New Yorkers know that they're not alone.
"They're so happy, especially when they see the girls, and the girls are so happy," Irizarry said. "It brings, it shines a light, you can actually feel it, you see it."
Citymeals said 500 volunteers helped out this Christmas.