It’s lunchtime and the bustling Soup Kitchen smells just like home. Enrique Zuanetto, the executive director, stirs a ladle deep in a big pot of chicken soup. “Try this, you will love it,” he insists. Zuanetto loves what he does, feeding up to 700 meals a day to people, many without jobs or homes, the working poor and especially children who come with their families.
The Soup Kitchen, or “God’s Kitchen,” as it’s called in Spanish, is bustling with happy volunteers, its serving tables piled high with chicken and ribs, salad, cooked veggies, fruit and that wonderful soup. On Thursdays and Fridays, there is a parent education class that includes a take-home of good counsel and disposable diapers. The Soup Kitchen is supported by corporate partners, including Wal-Mart, BJs, PBC Food Bank and more than 200 energetic volunteers. Its 30th anniversary fundraising gala is scheduled for April 18.
Q. When you arrived from Argentina in 1981, you worked for Avon. How did your career path go from being a cosmetics executive to running a soup kitchen?
A. I worked in the Avon in Argentina and then in the Avon New York home office, and everywhere I saw citizens doing things for other people. I said, ‘I want to do that too.’ ”
Q. How was your 29th year, 2012?
A. I only work seven days a week, so I lose perspective, but I wrote it down, so here it is: We were open 365 days; we fed 210,360 meals; that was 1.4 million pounds of food people ate here or took home. We gave out 732 turkeys on Thanksgiving; 400 of those were donated by Wal-Mart. We give free shots to adults and children once a month.
Q. How do people find out about the Soup Kitchen?
A. All kinds of people, the homeless, they know they can eat here, no questions asked. We ask for no money from the government. This way we are very clean to do whatever is needed to fulfill our goal.
Q. What message do you want to convey in your parent education classes?
A. I tell them you are responsible to help your children be ready for the American opportunity.
Q. What keeps you going seven days a week?
A. I have seen how generous are the American people. On the Saturday before Christmas we had 735 children here. Every one of them went home with at least two toys. All of it was donated, a whole truck full. Another time, one of my volunteers was in line at the store and a man asked, “Why are you buying all those toys?” And she told him. The store gave a 10 percent discount and the bill came to $248. The guy said, “Put it on my card.” Another guy printed our brochures. The bill was $295. When he delivered them and he saw what we do here, he said, “No way am I going to charge you.” He donated that and then all the printed material for the gala. The churches help us, the synagogues help us. The volunteers are so passionate about what they do. I delegate it and they get it done. Now I just need somebody to help me figure out how to do this job better.
Q. What’s on your wish list for 2013?
A. I want to transform to a commercial-grade kitchen. I need tables and food processors and a vacuum sealer and a 40-gallon gas kettle to make the soup. And a refrigerated truck.
Q. What’s your long-term career strategy?
A. I want to work here until I am 99 and die before my children.
The Soup Kitchen of Boynton Beach will be hosting a 30th Anniversary Gala Fundraiser at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 18, at Benvenuto Restaurant, 1730 N Federal Highway, Boynton Beach. Tickets are $125 per person, which includes dinner, live and silent auctions and raffles. Tickets may be purchased through www.thesoupkitchen.org or by calling 754-366-0795.