CAMACOL hosts annual holiday basket giveaway

MIAMI (WSVN) - CAMACOL’s 32nd annual basket giveaway gave thousands of families the opportunity to go home with all the fixings for that perfect holiday meal.

About 3,000 families were lined up outside the Latin Chamber of Commerce, early Wednesday morning, near 14th Avenue and West Flagler Street. On Nov. 29, CAMACOL had handed out vouchers for their basket distribution.

These families are lining up for the second time in two weeks for their holiday baskets. “I feel blessed that we’re able to do this for our community,” said CAMACOL President Mercy Saladrigas, “and that we’ve got such great sponsors that are so giving.”

The donated bags are filled with food items and beverages related to the holidays, which help feed thousands of needy families from various communities in Miami-Dade County.

From Borden and Sedano’s to Publix and other companies, organizers round them all to help bring a feast to thousands of holiday tables.

“Giving back to our community, being there when they really need us, giving them a sense that everything’s going to be fine,” said Publix district manager Onay Pedraza. “Doing that after Hurricane Irma, opening up our stores — we just have to be there for them.”

Two women who spoke with 7News said they were lined up outside the chamber of commerce four days prior to the voucher handout to secure their families a meal for the holidays.

“It is unfortunate what happened with the hurricane and all that stuff,” said Letty Lee. “Now, I’m thankful for the Chamber of Commerce. God bless them for what they’re giving to us.”

Juanita Alvaraz, who was also first in, said she’s just happy to be able to provide for her family. “Now, on Christmas Eve, I’ll be able to cook for me and for my family. Yes, so this is great,” she said.

When asked what she would be cooking, Alvaraz said, “I’m gonna be doing arroz con gandules because we are Puerto Rican.”

“Rice and beans, gandules,” said Lee.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the new mayor of Miami, Francis Suárez, were also on hand helping volunteers distribute the food. “South Florida has got people with enormous success and a lot of people that are one paycheck away from really having a tough time,” said Bush.

Suárez said he hopes to find ways to make life better for those who struggle the most. “We have to be creative. We have to eliminate ways that government is sticking their hands in people’s pockets,” he said. “We have to work on affordable housing, which is a huge challenge in our community.”

Bush has been handing out meals at CAMACOL for years, and 2017 is no different. “This is a time to give back. CAMACOL does a spectacular job helping people,” he said.

And, even with the challenges these families face, for them it’s a gift in itself that there will be a feast to remember this holiday.

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