LITTLE HAVANA (CBS4) – Hundreds of people braved the chilly overnight and morning temperatures to wait in line waiting for baskets of free food. Wednesday, the Latin American Chamber of Commerce (CAMACOL) hosted their annual Holiday food bag distribution where thousands of underprivileged families were given bags of food with all the elements of a Noche Buena Dinner.

Juanita Alvarez settled in for a long cold night outside on Tuesday evening. She wanted to be one of the first in line for Wednesday morning’s annual food giveaway.

“We’re surviving. Everybody brought coffee and something hot to eat. We cover up very well, so it’s no problem,” she said. She was joined by about a dozen other people, who braved the frigid temperatures. Most of them are unemployed or on a fixed income and depend on the food giveaway.

“It helps out for the family during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day,” said Alvarez. “It’s pretty cool, the help that they give you and I appreciate them,” said Antonio Rodriquez.

This is a huge event in the Little Havana community where 3,000 underprivileged families in the area are given several bags of food filled with about $150 worth of pork, rice, beans, milk, bread and other delicious items.

Jacquelyn Guardia thankfully received her basket of food. 2010 has been a rough year for her. The 26-year-old is unemployed and is trying to provide for her 5-year-old son and she’s due to give birth in less than two weeks.

“I am a single mom and of course, due to my situation, I’m not working right now,” explained Guardia. “I feel really grateful. This is very nice. I feel now I have something to provide in my house and it’s nice to see how the community is involved in this.”

The grocery giveaway 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.

“This year, we gave out 3,000 which is the most we’ve ever done,” said Pedro Mesa of the Latin Chamber of Commerce. “And there were a lot of people waiting for more, something to consider for next year.”

In order to receive a holiday basket, each person needed a voucher. The vouchers were given out several weeks ago. Those with a voucher are guaranteed a basket but many people stood in line anyway because they did not want to take any chances. Despite the wait, the mood was festive because these families are thankful for the help.

“Everybody is getting together and everybody is helping everybody, that’s the best part,” said Arabel Perez.


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