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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Patience will paid off on Wednesday for the long line of folks who camped out for a bit of holiday help.

The pre-holiday tradition in Little Havana is known as the Latin American Chamber of Commerce (CAMACOL) annual holiday food basket giveaway.

The line in front of the CAMACOL Tower on Flagler Street, which stretched for blocks, actually started to form before Thanksgiving. The line isn’t for the food, simply the voucher that will be turned in later for food.

A recent FIU study found nearly half of the resident of Little Havana live at or below the poverty line.

CAMACOL started this tradition of handing out Christmas dinner for families 32 years ago.

They began handing out the food vouchers at 8 a.m.

“It breaks my heart to do this, but I have to do this every year,” said volunteer Luis Cuervo who was handing out tickets. “As long as I’m alive I’m going to keep doing it. I just thank God to do this.”

Juanita Alvarez, a grandmother and military veteran, was first in line four days ago.

“I can’t wait to get my meals, my items, my pork, my rice, my beans, to be able to cook my Christmas Eve dinner,” she said.

Those who receive the vouchers will come back on Wednesday, December 13, to pick up the holiday food basket filled with a complete “Latin-styled” holiday dinner including rice, beans, yucca, bread, refreshments, a pork shoulder, spices, sugar, milk and other essential items.

There’s enough food in the basket for up to 10 people to enjoy a traditional “Noche Buena” meal.

Alvarez said the wait was worth it.

“A lot of people behind us, they are going to be here for hours waiting to get a ticket. So I didn’t want to be in that situation,” she said.

In the end, it turned out the need was greater than the bounty. In just a few short hours, all three thousand holiday meal vouchers were handed out and an untold number of people were turned away. CAMACOl plans to increase the number of vouchers next year.


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