“The Santa Clara Police Department picked the right person to be their P.A.L. (Police Activities League) director. Robert Martinez does so much more than just arrange athletic leagues,” wrote Cabrillo Middle School Principal Stan Garber in an email to the Santa Clara Weekly. “You’d think that he spends all of his time organizing sporting events for the children in town, but that’s only part of what he does.”
After Thanksgiving, Officer Martinez called Garber with the good news that he had just received a call from Linda Leca, general manager at Mariani’s Inn and Restaurant, Santa Clara. The restaurant had 40 whole turkeys and dinner trimmings to donate to school families. Garber’s office staff lept into action to identify and notify families. Martinez picked up the turkeys from the restaurant in his gold P.A.L. van and dropped them off at Cabrillo Middle School and three other Santa Clara Unified School District (SUSD) schools.
“I see Officer Martinez here on weekends overseeing sports activities, handing out trophies, provisioning the snack shop,” said Cabrillo school secretary Arlene Enriquez. “He has a heart. He seems to go above and beyond in reaching out to families in need. You can’t always tell by looking which families are in need.”
Martinez, a San Jose resident, is always on the lookout for P.A.L. donors, and even on his day off he will pick up the donationsâ€”one time 200 game tickets from the 49ers. And although he gets sea sick, he accompanies high school students on P.A.L. fishing trips in San Francisco Bay.
“When Officer Martinez took on the special assignment as Police Activities League Director, he probably didnâ€™t realize the profound impact he would have on families,” said Santa Clara Police Chief Michael Sellers in an email.
“After all, Martinez took on this job to organize low-cost sports programs for youth, such as soccer, boxing, bowling, bicycle moto-cross (BMX), girlsâ€™ softball, judo, wrestling, fishing and police explorers. Hundreds of children benefit from the physical exercise, socialization, teambuilding skills and self-esteem that these valuable programs provide,” wrote Sellers.Â “However, Martinez also does an impressive job reaching out to community members to offer support, guidance and reassurance during difficult times.”
Martinez’s three-year term as P.A.L. director was extended to a fourth year because of his outstanding performance.
“He’s been a great asset to our P.A.L. program. He’s perfectâ€”someone willing to do what’s necessary to make sure all the programs are successful,” said SCPD Lt. Dan Moreno in administrative services. “He often goes above and beyond what is requested of him to make sure all the needs of families in the program are met.”
“The job is very interesting. With P.A.L., you’re on the phone or doing something every day of the week . The job is so rewarding. It’s an eye-opening experience. We can definitely affect people through P.A.L. programs,” said Martinez, who sometimes brings his own children to help out.
December 17th, almost 50 lucky SCUSD students, nominated by their principals, got to “Shop with a P.A.L.” at Target, 2004 El Camino Real, Santa Clara. Each was given a $200 gift card. Between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., the students were escorted through the store on a private shopping spree by a uniformed police officer or city volunteer such as Mayor Lisa Gillmor and city council and school board members. Then Royal Coaches bussed the students to Mariani’s, where the restaurant treated them to breakfast and everybody wrapped the presents.
On Christmas Eve, December 24, P.A.L. board members, SCPD officers, Mariani employees and Santa will deliver a holiday meal basket from Mariani’s and wrapped gifts chosen from personal wish lists to 16 Santa Clara families. The families were identified by the school district as ones who would especially benefit from the outreach. Martinez did most of the shopping.
“He’s our very own Santa Claus,” said Jennifer Dericco, SCUSD public information officer.
Funds for the Christmas programs are raised through donations, concession stand sales at sporting events, and special events. An annual charity golf tournament is the biggest fund raiser.
“I’m proud our [police] department has a P.A.L. program. Not all departments do. It’s very beneficial for our community to interact with police and all the programs we offer,” said Lt. Moreno.
“I love working with kids and the job enables me to do that, whether it’s in sports, awards presentations, Thanksgiving or Christmas projects,” said P.A.L. Director Martinez. “Some kids only have negative interactions with police. When we show up at Christmas and other times, it’s a positive interaction.”