CLOSER LOOK: Mama Passerelli's ‘Soup Ladies’ Feed First Responders

Posted on Thursday, May 9, 2024 by Lexy Smith, Marya Morgan

(K-LOVE Closer Look) - The church had to buy her a second soup pot. ‘Mama’ Ginger Passarelli was a single mom more than twenty years ago when she first discovered her love for serving huge vats of soup. She began bringing her favorites on Sundays and as word spread, one pot turned into two. Soon thereafter she found herself taking bowls on the road. Now, The Soup Ladies are a troupe of seasoned cooks on standby to feed first responders.

“A fire department was the first call out we had,” Mama Passarelli recalls, where she asked firefighters about conditions on crime scenes or natural disasters. “I said, ‘you just get stuck out here there's nobody to feed you? there's nobody bringing water, nothing?” They told her no. So, “I just started telling fire departments and police departments that if they were stuck on a scene they could call.”

Mama Ginger laughing, wearing incident jacket, with patrol cars
[Photo Credit: The Soup Ladies] 'Mama' Ginger Passarelli

They did. In the months and years since, Passarelli and her band of trained volunteers have been invited to feed first responders at dozens of events, like Hurricane Katrina, the Oso mudslides in Washington and even Dallas when five police officers were killed in the line of duty. “We’d end up at fires and homicides, where they were doing a long investigation: they can't leave …so we bring them hot food.” Soup is the signature dish of course, but weather could change things up. “If it's really hot we make chicken wraps -- we're very flexible.”

The Soup Ladies has a faithful group of about 60 volunteers, trained and certified in disaster response procedures like incident command. The ladies never self-deploy. “If we go to Texas or Georgia or Washington D.C. -- we always know our place -- we answer to the incident chief, and they are the ones who invite us to come to any incident.” More recently, The Soup Ladies were invited to serve hot meals to weary U.S. border patrol agents in Eagle Pass, Texas.

The Soup Ladies group pic Jan 2023
[Photo Credit: The Soup Ladies] The Soup Ladies (Jan 2023)

The Soup Ladies mission is simple, Passarelli says. “We feed first responders love and soup,” and wherever they go they are welcomed with open arms. “Many times I pull up to a scene and get out of the (big pink) truck… and whoever's there might be a police officer or firefighter says, ‘I need a hug.’ 

Mama Passarelli  welcomes new recruits, but only if they fully understand the demands of the job. “Pretty much you have to dedicate your life to this and that's what I do,” she says. “I'm a Soup Lady. I'm a wife, I'm a mother, I'm a grandmother of 11, but pretty much I'm on call and if we're called -- I go.” 

Her own children joined the cause, with one daughter now attending incidents in Southern California and the older who grew up to be a sheriff’s deputy in Washington state. “She was around the police officers for so long,” Passarelli smiles. “I don't think there's enough words of gratitude for these folks -- they are my heroes truly I'm so grateful and honored that they have let us do what we do.”

The Soup Ladies - Facebook

Giant pots of soup simmer
[Photo Credit: The Soup Ladies]


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