LITTLE HAVANA (CBS4) – Thousands of South Floridians lined up early in Little Havana Wednesday for a chance to feed their families this holiday.
As part of the Latin Chamber of Commerce’s annual holiday basket giveaway, representatives from the organization handed out food vouchers on Flagler Street between 14th and 15th Avenues in Little Havana.
Sarah Morejoa stood in line for four days in hopes of getting the tiny blue-papered voucher that she said will make all the difference for her family this Christmas.
“My higher power, I give the (grace) that I finally made it,” she said.
The line wrapped around the block outside the voucher distribution location. About 2,000 people showed up early and camped out for days for the voucher.
For Morejoa, the help comes when her family needs it most.
“I lost my father (on) October 18 at 1:20 at Mercy Hospital and I have my mother, and this is for my mother,” she said. “I love my mother and I’m doing it for her.”
Concerned about safety, the City of Miami Police Department was in attendance to keep order and look after the sick and elderly.
“We have to make sure the police is out here, visible,” Commander Jose Perez of the Miami Police Department said. “We patrol every hour and make sure we don’t have any fights.”
The chamber handed out approximately 3000 vouchers this year on a first come, first served basis and said there was an obvious difference about this year’s crowd.
“I am surprised to see the younger crowd,” Beatriz Gradera of the Latin Chamber of Commerce said. “In the past years, we usually have the disabled, the handicapped, the retired. This year we see a lot of young people and I would assume it’s because of the unemployment and the need.”
Young families in need like Maria Peralta, a 35-year-old mother of two who said she is unable to find a steady job, was there.
“My family… for food. That’s good,” Peralta said. “I’m happy. I’m happy today.”
Those who receive a voucher Wednesday will have to return on December 15th and exchange the voucher for a free basket of food.
CBS4’s Sharrie Williams reported that each voucher can be redeemed for five bags of groceries worth $120. They are filled pork, rice, beans, milk, bread and other delicious items which are often used in a traditional Noche Buena dinner.
The event began 25 years ago when the Latin American Chamber of Commerce handed out holiday gift bags to help ten families. It certainly has grown over the years. The organization now provides 3,000 families with food bags, truckloads of food that donated by several companies.