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Great demand surrounds annual holiday food basket giveaway in Little Havana

LITTLE HAVANA, Fla. – Sherrie Jones was among the hundreds who waited in her car on Wednesday for a chance to receive a free food basket during a drive-thru distribution event in Miami’s Little Havana.

The demand was so high that Miami police officers closed some of the Miami Marlins Park’s surrounding streets. Some drivers turned off their cars so they wouldn’t run out of gas.

“A lot of people lost their jobs ... It has been heart wrenching and been a hardship to a lot of families and this is something that’s really helpful,” Jones said about the economic crisis during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jones said she was grateful for the organizers: The Latin Chamber of Commerce and Industry of USA, better known as CAMACOL, and the Miami Marlins Foundation. The two organizations teamed up to be able to distribute 1,000 food baskets at Marlins Park.

Their effort also meant a lot to Maria Sanchez, who also waited patiently in her car. Her grandfather, Luis Castro, is among the more than 4,000 people who died of COVID-19 in Miami-Dade County. She is hoping the food basket will help lift up her grandmother, Isabel Castro.

“We want to give her the spirit to keep on with our tradition,” Sanchez said through tears.

Volunteers distribute 1,000 food baskets during drive-thru event in Miami

Pedro Mesa, of Sedano’s Supermarkets, helped to organize the event as a CAMACOL member. It’s a decades-old tradition that Mesa helped to adapt to the pandemic.

“We wanted to make sure that it was done safely but it needed to be done. It needed to be like every year because they need us,” Mesa said.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniela Levine Cava, and Miguel Rojas, Miami Marlins’ shortstop, agree with Mesa. They were among the volunteers who were handing over baskets.

“It’s awesome to share some moments with this community that they been behind us for so many years.”

Each basket included a traditional Miami holiday meal for a family of 10. The event’s sponsors include Sedano’s Supermarket, Publix, Pepsi, Coca Cola, Goya, La Fe, Mahatma, Conchita Foods, Flowers Foods, Cafe La Llave Espresso and El Dorado Coffee Roasters.

“We bring everything for a good ‘Noche Buena’ dinner,” Mesa said. “We bring the rice. We bring the beans. We bring soda.”

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About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.