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LITTLE HAVANA (CBSMiami) – Thousands of South Florida families are getting some much-needed help for the holidays.

“We have the yuca. That’s what I wanted the most,” Resident Juanita Alvarez said.

Alvarez is relieved she and her loved ones won’t need to worry on Christmas Eve.

“Now, I can go home and put my things in the refrigerator and get ready for Christmas Eve to cook the dinner for my family,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez joined 3,000 others who need help for the holidays.

Many of whom waited for hours, in the cold all in an effort to provide a warm meal for the people they love.

“Our bags this year are bigger than ever.” Mercy Saladrigas said.

Saladrigas is the president of CAMACOL. This is the 33rd year the group has organized this event, which started with helping six families and now thousands.

“It’s great to be a part of it. We are blessed that we are the vehicle through which all these folks can donate,” Saladrigas said.

New this year, families are also getting cleaning supplies they can use after dinner. Not only are businesses helping out South Florida families but local and state leaders are lending helping hands.

“I get a very stark sense of the need in the city. The people here, they want what everybody wants; the American dream. They want to live in peace and prosperity.” City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said.

Florida Governor and Senator-elect Rick Scott talked to some of the families.

“It’s fun to be here. It’s nice to see people who are helping each other. There’s always people who have needs. It’s wonderful what CAMACOL does,” Governor Scott said.

The governor also said he’s thankful there are groups to help those in need.

“The economy is way better than it was. We’ve got a lot of jobs. But there are always people who need help,” Scott said.

That help is something Alvarez has needed for the last twelve years and she expects to be back next year too.

“It makes a difference because it’s worth it. We’ve been there since 10 o’clock (Tuesday) last night in this cold weather. It wasn’t that well but we made it,” Alvarez said.

This year, they distributed approximately 3,000 vouchers, which recipients will hand in for the holiday food basket from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

This year, as in previous years, the basket is filled with a complete “Latin-styled” Holiday dinner including rice, beans, yucca, bread, soda, a pork shoulder, spices, sugar, milk, and other essential items. There is enough food for about 10 people to enjoy a traditional “Noche Buena” meal.

In addition to providing for those who are experiencing hardships this holiday season, the food drive also serves to unify the community as basket items come from donations provided by different sponsors.

Ty Russell

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