Reporting Peter D’Oench
LITTLE HAVANA (CBS4) – Call it a sign of tough economic times.
Three thousand people flocked to a site in Little Havana to receive free baskets of food Wednesday morning. Some were so eager to pick up this food that they had camped out Around the Latin American Chamber of Commerce (CAMACOL) building at 1401 West Flagler Street since Tuesday night.
Some 200 volunteers helped CAMACOL hand out the food baskets starting at 8 a.m. It ended peacefully at 2:02 p.m. A CBS4 crew was there as police were called to turn one persistent person away.
Volunteers told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that he had no voucher and was not eligible for the free food giveaway.
The people who showed up for the giveaway had also lined up on a chilly night two weeks ago at CAMACOL to receive those vouchers.
Many said they were grateful for the food that was donated by local companies. The baskets included sausage, rice, biscuits, desert items, canned peaches, salt, juices and milk.
“I’m disabled, disabled,” said Alex Gomez. “And I need this food.”
Maria Valvuerdi told CBS4, “I don’t make enough money. I am disabled too. I do not have enough money for food stamps and enough money to help out the family.”
Mariano Castro waited patiently at the end of a long line that snaked around several city blocks and saidh that he too was eager to receive the free food.
“I am a laborer and I have two kids and I have been unemployed for three years,” Castro said. “I see a lot of sponsors here. This is good. Times are tough. Jobs are hard to get right now. The economy is still not picking up fast. And Christmas is here.”
The grocery giveaway started 25 years ago when CAMACOL handed out holiday gift bags to help ten families.
One hundred twenty of the volunteers wearing blue t-shirts were from Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
“I think this is a very good thing that is happening here,” said one unidentified volunteer from Blue Cross/Blue Shield. “I know we often complain about things we don’t have, but when you look at this, this is a very humbling experience.”
Dozens of people showed up for food without vouchers and promised they would get vouchers next year from CAMACOL. They waited patiently but in vain and went home with no food.
“I have been here waiting for 3 hours,” said Maria Zamora of Little Havana. “I feel sad. I really needed it. My children really needed it.”
Idelberto Alvarez told CBS4, “I have no children but I have been unemployed for the past 8 months. It is very sad and disappointing to get no food. I was waiting for leftovers. This does make this hard accepting this.”