Mary Ann Ginnerty spends a good portion of each week scouring supermarket advertisements, grocery shopping and looking for new recipes. The food and recipes she finds aren’t for her, however, since Ginnerty doesn’t even like to cook.
Instead, she gives the food and recipes she procures to volunteer cooks at Ss. Peter and John Episcopal Church Soup Kitchen, where she has been volunteering for the past two years. On March 29 the Cayuga County Chapter of the American Red Cross honored Ginnerty’s efforts during its Great Heroes Luncheon.
Ginnerty, who belongs to St. Mary Parish in Auburn, began volunteering at the soup kitchen shortly after she retired from her job as a corrections counselor at Auburn Correctional Facility.
“The day after I retired I had started chemotherapy. In April 2004 I had started feeling better and I was bored,” Ginnerty said.
After noticing the soup kitchen’s newspaper advertisement appealing for more volunteers, Ginnerty decided to offer her services. She went to a meeting at Ss. Peter and John. When the Rev. Douglas Taylor-Weiss asked her what she liked to do, she told him she liked to shop for groceries.
“I like to grocery shop, but I didn’t realize if you grocery shop you’re the one who knows what’s available, so you do all the (menu) planning,” Ginnerty said.
Two years later, Ginnerty is still in charge of doing the grocery shopping and planning menus for the soup kitchen. Each week she gathers all the supermarket advertisements from the newspaper and sits down to see what’s on sale at each store. Then she looks in the soup kitchen’s freezer to see what kinds of donated food items are in stock. Ginnerty then puts together a menu for each week based on what foods the soup kitchen has on hand and what items are on sale.
“I’ve got it down to a science,” Ginnerty said. “I read recipes constantly. No matter what (food) it is, we’ll find a recipe to use it in.”
Ginnerty has a knack for putting together delicious and balanced meals this way, said Marian Cool, secretary of Auburn Court 263 of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas. Ginnerty is treasurer of the court, which she’s belonged to for five years.
“She is very resourceful in getting the food at bargain prices and getting different agencies to support this endeavor with donations of food, money and volunteers,” Cool said.
The Auburn CDA court is one such organization, Ginnerty said. The court sponsors the soup kitchen once a month, which means the court provides the volunteers and pays for the food served that day. St. Mary and Holy Family parishes in Auburn have similar arrangements with the soup kitchen, which is only open on Saturdays.
Twenty-eight local restaurants and social organizations take turns providing soup for the kitchen, and in the summer the kitchen receives a lot of donated vegetables, Ginnerty added. When she began volunteering at the soup kitchen she was amazed to see how much the kitchen’s guests enjoyed the fresh vegetables.
“I’ve seen kids walk past peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and go for the Brussels sprouts,” she said.
In the last 12 months the soup kitchen has served 5,055 meals, which is 35 percent more meals than the kitchen served the previous year. The rising costs of gas, heat and groceries are forcing more and more people to visit the area’s soup kitchens and food pantries this year, and some people even walk two miles to get to the soup kitchen, Ginnerty said.
Some of the soup kitchen’s guests aren’t coming to satisfy their physical hunger alone, however.
“We have maybe a handful of people that come just to get out of the house and socialize. It’s such a warm and welcoming atmosphere,” Ginnerty said. “Hunger is sometimes social too, so we meet both needs.”
The community has been very supportive of the soup kitchen, so much so that there is a waiting list of people who’d like to volunteer, she said. The guests themselves also are very appreciative, and many of them stay at the kitchen after the meal to help clean up, she added. It’s these interactions with guests and volunteers that keeps Ginnerty coming back to the soup kitchen.
“It’s not fun. It’s joyous. It’s really a joyous experience,” Ginnerty said.