Families wait days in Little Havana for Christmas baskets from CAMACOL

MIAMI (WSVN) - The annual CAMACOL food basket giveaway began, Wednesday morning, and families who have been waiting in line for hours, even days, are receiving a little extra help this holiday season.

The basket distribution started at 7 a.m., and holiday basket hopefuls continued to line the sidewalks of Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood as morning turned to afternoon.

“I’ve been here since last night,” said participant Roland Hernandez. “It’s been worth it.”

Families have been waiting outside the Latin American Chamber of Commerce in Little Havana, where 3,000 vouchers were given away to families in need, last month.

CAMACOL President Mercy Saladrigas made sure each bag was stuffed with food for these needy families. “I could not be more proud of being a part of this operation,” said Saladrigas. “It feels really good.”

Some families camped out to hold their place in line, so they can be among the first to take home a holiday basket.

“I made it, I made it,” said Juanita Alvarez, who has been in line since Saturday, Dec. 10. “I’m so tired, but we made it. Look at this pork I got. This is really nice. It makes a difference to cook for my 20 people that I’m gonna cook for, my family on Christmas Eve.”

Juanita has been the first person in line every year for the past 10 years. “Every year we make new friends, and we share,” she said. “I think I gained five pounds being here these five days, because everybody bring food and coffee, and we share. We do rotations. We go home to do what we have to do, but it’s great.”

State and local leaders stopped by to lend a helping hand and commended CAMACOL on a job well done. “It’s getting bigger,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott. “This year, it’s definitely bigger.”

“Hopefully, they do it for a lot more years,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. “It really makes a difference to a lot of families in this community.”

As people waited in line, Tuesday, some warmed their spirits with Cuban coffee.

“They give us a basket and that will help us feed our family,” said Silvia Martin. “They give yuca. They give rice. They give black beans. They give coffee. They give a two-liter Pepsi [bottle], milk.”

The basket includes a complete Christmas dinner with items like rice, beans and pork shank for a family of four.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the staff, who have worked very, very hard, long hours to get this done,” said Saladrigas. “All of our contributors, our members, board members that make sure that this happens.”

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