LITTLE HAVANA (CBSMiami) — Despite giving away 3,000 food baskets worth up to $200, several hundred people were still turned away Wednesday from a free food voucher giveaway from the Latin American Chamber of Commerce.
Some of the people lined up for days to get the free vouchers from the annual CAMACOL food giveaway, which is the 27th year the Chamber has given away the food.
“These baskets consist of a full Christmas dinner, Latin-style per se,” said Luis Cuervo of the Latin Chamber of Commerce.
Those with vouchers will return on December 19th, stand in line again, and exchange the voucher for a bag of food worth up to $200.
Hundreds of people camped out overnight outside the CAMACOL building, located at 1401 West Flagler Street, in order to receive a voucher. Some people started their camp out on Nov. 28th.
“It’s worth it because it’s $150 worth of food that provides a lot of items for my table, for my children and my grandchildren to enjoy on Christmas Eve,” said Juanita Alvarez.
She and the rest of the people in line have one woman to blame for starting all this.
“I’ve been sleeping here. I’ve been brushing my teeth here with a little bit of water. I’ve been washing myself,” said Maritza Garcia.
She said it’s like a badge of honor as she does all this curbside. She sat down on this corner around 7 am last Wednesday.
“And it just started building. Next thing I knew a few hours later instead of two you had six people. And now the line is all the way to the end wrapping around the block,” Beatrice Gardera with the Latin Chamber of Commerce.
“Even though these people are not my family, it’s like family,” Alvarez said about the other people waiting in line.
CAMACOL started this tradition of handing out Christmas dinner for families 27 years ago.
“I think they gave away like 4 or 5 bags the very first time around and this thing has grown to the tune that we’ve been passing out 3,000 bags per year,” said Luis Cuervo from CAMACOL.
In years past thousands have lined up for the food bags but this is the first time people have lined up a week ahead for just a ticket for a bag.
“When you see these really needy people that really, really need these goods that we provide, I think it’s something that we cherish,” Cuervo said.
Yamile Lopez waited outside for 24 hours and said she needs a food basket to make sure her four kids have a special Christmas. She’s a single mom who was recently laid off.
“It’s been hard for me to get along with my kids and stuff, food, and house and rent; it’s not easy,” Lopez said.
Despite giving out 3,000 vouchers, a few hundred people still had to be turned away.
The food baskets won’t go out for another two weeks. If you have a voucher on Dec 19th, you are guaranteed the food. Despite that, people are expected to line up for the food baskets days ahead of time.