On a rainy Wednesday morning about 9:40, there’s a line of people out the door of The Soup Kitchen in suburban Boynton Beach. Enrique Zuanetto, the kitchen’s executive director, is answering phone calls, managing the volunteers, handling donations and breaking up the occasional fight in the crowd.
He’s also talking to the guests about their personal lives. When a woman calls and says she needs help, he doesn’t ask questions. He tells her to come to the kitchen.
Zuanetto has been with the kitchen since 1997 and has been the executive director since 2000. The kitchen is a nonprofit and is in its 31st year. This past year, with a $400,000 budget, the kitchen gave out $3 million in food and $2 million in clothes, furniture and other support. Zuanetto says the soup kitchen is successful only because of its many volunteers and the help it receives from the community. Last year the kitchen served 250,000 hot meals.
Question: What brought you here?
Answer: I did this in Argentina. I did something like this in New Jersey. In 1997, I came to Florida and my children need the community hours. I brought them here to do the community hours, and they finished the hours, and I stayed forever.
Q: What else does the kitchen provide besides food and clothing?
A: My job is to tell the mothers they are responsible for the education of their children. I train them to be aware that the mother is responsible for the education, the good behavior, the personality of the children. Because if they are well behaved and have good education, we’ll have a chance in America.
Q: Do you get emotional while working here?
A: This is very emotional. I have so many real stories in my mind that I don’t want to cry all day long here. Our guests make less than $10,000 a year. They live in trailers. They rent a room in a trailer. Sometimes they tell me, “We are having a rough year but we are 100 percent better in this country. Why? Because our children have the opportunities.”
Q: On Thanksgiving, what do you see here?
A: Monday and Tuesday was a mad house. We fed around 1,000 people. We give them turkeys, canned goods. In buses, they came in buses. And Wednesday we are very busy. But Thursday, this will be quiet because everybody has everything they need at home.
Q: How about Christmas?
A: Last year at the Christmas party, in line there was 735 children. Every toy was donated from the community. For example, a company raised $500. The person went to Target and started buying toys and filled up two or three shopping carts. When they were walking through the store, the manager came and asked, “Why do you have so many?” The manager said when you go to the cashier give them my card and they’ll give you a 10 percent discount. They went to the cashier, and a person behind asked, “What is this all about?” Then the person behind said put it on my account.
People say, “Why do you work 365 days?” This is a beautiful place.