Omaha’s new LPOA hosts Thanksgiving meal, winter coat giveaway

Omaha's NLPOA chapter holds Thanksgiving donation drive, coat giveaway
Published: Nov. 19, 2023 at 5:31 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - This holiday week, dozens of Omaha families will have food on their plates and coats in their closets. It’s all thanks to community partnerships with the National Latino Peace Officer’s Association Omaha Chapter.

The Sunday morning event hosted at the Assumption-Guadalupe Gymnasium wasn’t just about helping others, but also helping the Omaha LPOA overcome a public corruption scandal.

“We’ve got about 75 meals that we’ve been able to provide for the community,” said Omaha Police Sgt. Queno Martinez.

Martinez is also the president of the NLPOA Omaha Chapter, which hosted Sunday’s giveaway event.

“They get to come here, get food, have (a) Thanksgiving meal where maybe they could afford it, or it’s something we could just take off their plate. Or put on their plate, I guess.”

The NLPOA Omaha Chapter worked with community partners like Rotella’s Italian Bakery, Hy-Vee, Cubby’s, and more to donate food items. The Knights of Columbus also partnered with the organization to provide more than 250 free coats to give to families.

One chapter member says he knows just how important events like these can be for families.

“I grew up poor, so places like Salvation Army, Open Door Mission, places like that, to me I remember that as a kid coming through, and I told myself once I got to be older that if I could help out the community, I would do the best I could to help out. This is my little part in helping out,” said Billy Mendez, an Omaha Airport Authority police officer, and the NLPOA Omaha Chapter’s Community Liaison Officer.

“This was something that the old chapter, the old LPOA did every year, and our board really wanted to make sure we were able to provide meals for the community again,” Sgt. Martinez said.

Martinez heads the new NLPOA Omaha Chapter.

The group was completely restructured after the former president and a board member were arrested in a public corruption scandal along with former city council member Vinny Palermo.

Martinez says Sunday’s event is two-fold.

“We also want to provide that great interaction with the community, bridge the gap between community and officers, and honestly build up a lot of the goodwill that was lost with the previous organization, and just say we are here, the NLPOA Omaha Chapter wants to serve the community and please come and let us help them.”

The former Omaha LPOA lost nearly all of its dues-paying members and is still working to rebuild. At one point they had just eight members left. Martinez says they’ve built it back up to about 30.

Members from all surrounding agencies are welcome to join as well.

But while the rebuilding of the organization is a work in progress, Martinez says Sunday’s event is all about the community.

“I’m just happy that we’re going to give all these meals and the coats and everything away.”