Remembering Yolanda Lopez: holiday donation drive in her memory

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — Yolanda Lopez always had a love for animals. Now, after her passing, the Elmira Animal Shelter is holding a holiday donation drive through December 31st in her memory.

Born in Honduras, Yolanda’s mother moved to the United States to care for a family member living in Elmira. Yolanda later joined her mother when she was 16 years old.

Yolanda worked for the City of Elmira for 44 years. She was first hired by the city in 1972 as a temp in the Civil Service division. In 1981, she was assigned to the Elmira Police Department where she remained for the rest of her career.

Anthony Alvernaz, police chief for the City of Elmira, said she was like a guardian.

“It was just a nice feeling knowing that she was here,” said Alvernaz. “The police department, the city, I think it was just a better place with Yolanda and we miss her dearly.”

On September 11, 2018, Yolanda lost her battle with colon cancer. However, her spirit and love for animals lives on.

“She loved the animal shelter,” said Alvernaz. “She was probably one of the biggest cheerleaders for that entity. She would bring animals from the shelter, mostly dogs, and let them run around and have their way in the detective bureau.”

Alvernaz said she was a “sweetheart”, but she also was firm. That is why people respected her.

“If she thought that somebody was stepping out of bounds or needed to be corrected in any way, whether it be an officer, a co-worker, or somebody off the street, she let them know,” said Alvernaz.

Now, the Elmira Police Department has created an award in her honor.  

In honor of Maria Yolanda Lopez’s hard work and dedication to the Elmira Police Department, the Department established an award in 2018. This award is known as the Maria Yolanda Lopez Award, and will be considered the Department’s “Supervisor of the Year” Award. This award will be given each year to one Department supervisor holding the rank of Sergeant, Lieutenant or Captain, and serving on either the patrol force or any of the Department’s bureaus or units. The winner will receive an award badge that may be worn above the nameplate on the police uniform, and a plaque commemorating the award.

Description of Maria Yolanda Lopez Award from Elmira Police Department

There was something else that people found award-winning.

“She had a secret recipe that she never shared for salsa,” said Alvernaz. “It was the best salsa I’ve ever had. So, I desperately miss that. I think somebody probably has it in the freezer somewhere and if they could sell it, they would probably get a good penny for it.”

In her memory, the Elmira Animal Shelter is hosting a holiday donation drive. It runs from December 1 to December 31. Gifts can be dropped off at 312 Lake Street.

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