He’s been helping the homeless and hungry; now he gets to lead a parade


Enrique Zuanetto will take a day off Saturday from leading the volunteers at The Soup Kitchen to lead Boynton Beach’s 47th Holiday Parade.

Zuanetto, the kitchen’s director, has been named the parade’s grand marshal. He was nominated by a resident and then chosen by the Recreation and Parks advisory board.

“I’m very proud,” said Zuanetto, who came to the country in 1981 from Argentina. “I take this honor on behalf of the volunteers because they are the ones that really deserve it. I’m like the image of The Soup Kitchen.”

The kitchen, on West Boynton Beach Boulevard beside the Caridad Center health clinic, has been open for more than 30 years. Open every day of the year, it operates without government donations and relies on contributions from the community members. Those who come to the kitchen for food — such as meat, vegetables and starches — are not asked how much money they make or what their living situation is.

>>RELATED: Boynton Beach’s holiday tree lighting, concert and parade

In addition to meals, the kitchen offers classes for mothers and babies, and provides holiday activities. The volunteers also give out clothing. In total, the kitchen has about 300 volunteers.

The nonprofit served more than 265,000 hot meals in 2015 and started a Meals-on-Wheels program that year. The kitchen served over 40,000 meals alone in August and September.

This past Thanksgiving week, the kitchen served 3,659 guests. Volunteers served 7,300 hot meals, gave out 3,000 bags of groceries and 998 frozen turkeys, according to a post on the kitchen’s Facebook page.

During Hurricane Irma, Zuanetto opened the kitchen as a shelter to homeless people who did not want to go to elsewhere. And, he stayed there with them even when the building lost power. The kitchen ended up being without power for nine days, but the workers and volunteers still found ways to help those in need by handing out non-perishables such as peanut butter and crackers, cooking with gas instead of electric and accepting donated meals to give out.

Zuanetto came to the kitchen in 1997 as a volunteer and became the director in 2000. Over the years he has been honored numerous times, including last year by the Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations group. The coalition awarded him their civic leadership award, named after COBWRA founder Richard Carrington.

“I’m proud of the support of the community, business community, how everyone wants to help locally to be involved in the soup kitchen,” he said.

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