Three years ago, addicted to crack and booze, Billy Salmon would line up for free meals at Toronto’s Good Shepherd Centre.

“I was homeless, penniless, Godless and ... staying in the shelter,” said Salmon, 56. “I was bad. I weighed 175 pounds when I came in off the street.”

But Salmon, a tall, burly man with a booming laugh, entered rehab. He’s been clean and sober for two and a half years.

Salmon was back at the Centre on Queen Street East yesterday to help 80 or so other volunteers serve a Thanksgiving meal to Toronto’s needy.

It was one of several holiday meals put on across the city over the weekend.

“The goose bumps come up just when I think about it,” Salmon said. “This place literally saved my life,”

The meal began at noon but by 11:30 a.m., hundreds of people were in a line that snaked around the block.

As diners began to stream in, volunteers marched out carrying large trays full of steaming hot turkey, vegetables and stuffing. Others weaved between flower-decorated tables offering up coffee, tea or juice.

Each place setting included a piece of pumpkin pie.

The Centre expected to serve 1,600 meals over two and a half hours, which was no small task, said fundraising director Adrienne Urquhart.

Kitchen workers roasted 120 turkeys, cooked 544 kilograms of potatoes and 272 kilograms of stuffing, and prepared 1,200 dinner rolls.

On top of that, there were 57 litres of gravy and 250 pumpkin pies. Most of the food was donated.