Latino Center Distributes Hundreds of Masks, Hygiene Kits in South Omaha

July 14, 2020, 12:24 p.m. ·

Hundreds of Omaha residents got free masks, sanitation kits, and produce at a drive-thru supply giveaway this Wednesday morning.

The Latino Center of the Midlands partnered with several organizations for the event. The American Heart Association gave away dozens of soccer balls, footballs, and volleyballs. The YMCA donated boxes of produce, and the face masks came from CHI Health and Verizon.

Latino Center executive director Albert Varas says they work to connect families in south Omaha with existing services.

"That’s going to be our role as this pandemic continues is figuring out what can we do, what is our role in terms of what are we going to lead, what are we going to champion," Varas said. "And make sure that people have the awareness that this exists or that exists, and then continue to make connections with the community."

Cars were lined up for the giveaway at least 30 minutes before it began. The group had 200 hygiene kits, 3,000 face masks, 200 boxes of produce, 100 bags of nonperishable food, and 50 sports balls to give away.

The nonprofit Latino Center gave away more than 6,000 masks at an event last week and scheduled Wednesday’s event because of the high demand.

"When we conducted a survey in March asking what are people’s greatest concerns, number one is their health, number two is employment security, and number three is food security," Varas said. "So we’re addressing the first and third with the masks for health and then with food."

The Latino Center of the Midlands has been closed due to COVID-19, but re-opened on Monday.

Minority populations in Nebraska are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In Douglas County, Hispanic residents are 16% of the population but 46% of COVID-19 cases and 18% of deaths.