Catholics in the nation's capital are opening their hearts – and kitchens – to the poor, hungry and homeless in their neighborhoods for Thanksgiving this year.

"Thanksgiving is a time of the year for all of us to reflect with gratitude on the many blessings we have received," said Monsignor James D. Watkins, pastor of Immaculate Conception parish, who organizes a Thanksgiving ministry to the poor in the area.

"It is also a time for us to share those blessings with our neighbors who are the least among us so their families might share in the hope and joy of Thanksgiving."

The 150-year-old parish, located in Washington, D.C.'s Shaw neighborhood, carries out an annual Turkey Basket tradition, donating over 100 baskets filled with turkeys, stuffing, and additional trimmings to the poor and needy in the area. The 50-year-old tradition was started by the parish's previous pastor, Monsignor J. Joshua Mundell.

While the Shaw neighborhood has undergone a dramatic revitalization in recent years, Immaculate Conception parish still seeks to help those who are in need during the holidays.

The parish's basket program is one of several projects helping to ensure that struggling families in the D.C. area receive a Thanksgiving meal.

Over the course of four days, the SHARE Food Network – a part of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington that helps needy families receive the groceries they need – distributed 13,000 turkey meals to local families.

The packages, which cost between $20 and $39, included turkey, chicken, potatoes, macaroni, vegetables and pie. They were distributed Nov. 22-25 to families across the archdiocese.

Helping with the collection and distribution of the food, said the Archdiocese of Washington, were "more than 300 local churches and community groups and more than 1,000 volunteers all working to ensure there will be plenty of food on everyone's Thanksgiving table."

SHARE continues its food aid monthly throughout the year, and distributed more than 113,000 affordable food packages in 2012.

On Nov. 26, more than 100 volunteers from the Washington, D.C. area served a Thanksgiving meal to hundreds of those in need.

The volunteers dined with their guests, many of whom are homeless, at a meal complete with china and tablecloths.

The dinner was sponsored by Catholic Charities, power company Pepco Holdings, and local caterer Ridgewells Catering. The location for the meal was donated, along with the food, china and silverware.

Volunteers served their guests "turkey and gravy, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, sweet potatoes, stuffing, rolls and pumpkin pie," Catholic Charities said in a press release.

After the meal, the guests left "with a full belly and a gift bag with warm clothing items for the upcoming winter season."