“There would be no purple, green and gold without the blue.”
That’s the motto behind the Adopt-a-Cop program that’s been held during the busy final 12 days of the Carnival season since 1995.
“We don’t think about it, but as we’re all out there having a great time at the parades and balls, our police officers are working 12- or 13-hour shifts to make sure everything goes smoothly and we all stay safe,” said Melanie Talia, president and CEO of the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation.
The group's mission is to support the New Orleans Police Department through programs that range from providing funds for injured officers and their families to helping to recruit the next generation of officers.
“These officers are on duty long hours, which means they rarely have time to step out and grab something to eat,” Talia said. “Which is where we come in.”
Working with the community and various partners, the NOPJF provides hot and cold meals, along with healthy snacks and beverages, to officers while they’re on the job.
“We’ve actually got a truck that runs on the parade routes so that officers can just grab something without having to leave their post,” Talia said. “It could be a snack like a protein bar or mixed nuts, or a sports drink, coffee or hot chocolate.”
Some organizations, like the French Quarter Business Association, recruit local restaurants to donate hot food.
“Being able to get off the street and sit down to a handmade meal means so much to the officers of the 8th (District), and we are honored to provide that meal,” said Brittany Mulla McGovern, executive director of the business association.
“It’s an enormous task,” Talia said, “because we work hard to feed not only our NOPD officers, but federal and state officers in town to help out during Carnival, including the ATF, DEA, FBI, the Louisiana State Police and officers that come over from other parishes. We do all this with a giant staff of just five people, so we rely really heavily on our volunteers, partnerships and generous donations."
Among the volunteers that will help make Adopt-a-Cop happen this year is a group of 26 eighth-graders and five seventh-graders from Trinity Episcopal School.
“This will be our fourth year making bagged lunches — actually, bagged dinners really — for the Adopt-a-Cop program,” said Grace Perez, a seventh- and eighth-grade Spanish teacher at Trinity who also serves as the school’s service coordinator. “We assembled 350 bags last year and will probably do about that this year as well.”
The difference this year is that, for the first time, the school is getting help from some local businesses to offset its costs.
“We spent about $900 last year on the bags, which include a sandwich, chips, cookie and an apple,” Perez said.
Perez said the group will once again gather on the Friday morning before Mardi Gras to assemble the meals.
“We get a little assembly line going,” she said. “Some kids are making sandwiches, others are putting items in the bags. The kids love to write messages on the bags for the officers like, ‘Thanks for all you do,’ and ‘Our favorite krewe is the blue krewe.’
"Someone from the NOPD then comes with a big truck and picks it all up, and our meals go to the officers out on duty that night.”
“It’s an incredibly helpful program,” said Cmdr. Darryl Albert, who, in addition to overseeing the NOPD Crime Lab and Central Evidence and Property units, also manages and oversees the NOPD side of the Adopt-a-Cop program.
“What this does is create a level of efficiency that keeps our officers on patrol, on routes, visible and interacting with the community,” he said. “It allows for our cops to be where we need them — out making a difference.”
If you’d like to support the Adopt-a-Cop program with either a general donation or one earmarked for a specific district, visit NOPJF.org/adopt-a-cop.