11/30/2011 11:29 am ET | Updated Nov 30, 2011

Hundreds Camp Overnight, Thousands Queue For Free Holiday Meal

In the most human of economic indicators, hundreds of Miami residents camped out overnight and thousands more joined a line Wednesday morning in Little Havana, hoping to receive a voucher for a free holiday meal.

Some of those camping out arrived Friday night, five days before the Latin American Chamber of Commerce began passing out 3,000 vouchers at 9 a.m. Awarded on a first-come, one-to-a-family basis, each voucher can be exchanged on December 14 for a basket containing everything necessary for a holiday meal.

By 7:30 p.m., police had counted 2,800 people in line. One of them was great-grandmother Juanita Alvarez, who told NBC Miami she had been camping out since Saturday at 1 p.m.

"It was hard, my bones are in pain, but it was worth it," she said. A seven-year veteran of the line, she told WSVN she'll use her basket to feed her family of 20.

"When I look in the bags, it's like two or three bags they give us, I see all the items and I enjoy each one of them," she said. "They're doing a great job for the community and I enjoy it and I'm grateful."

The Latin American Chamber of Commerce started the tradition 25 years ago, providing food for 10 families.