February 21, 2017

FBI Honors Ginger Passarelli with Director's Community Leadership Award

The FBI Seattle Field Office selected Black Diamond, Washington resident Ginger Passarelli for a 2016 Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA). Every year, each FBI field office honors a person who has demonstrated outstanding contributions to his or her local community through service.

On February 21, 2017, in a ceremony at the FBI’s building in Seattle, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Jay Tabb, Jr. congratulated Ms. Passarelli. In April 2017, FBI Director James B. Comey will present Ms. Passarelli with the 2016 DCLA award in a ceremony at FBI Headquarters. Ms. Passarelli is widely known as “Mama Ginger” or “The Soup Lady” because of her passion for serving delicious home-cooked meals to first responders. Her group, The Soup Ladies, is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide fresh and nutritional cooked meals to first responders, such as police and fire departments, search and rescue teams, and military personnel.

“Mama Ginger and The Soup Ladies provide a tremendous service to the community by helping sustain emergency personnel during critical responses,” said SAC Tabb. “The FBI appreciates Mama Ginger’s friendship and heart for service. The Seattle Field Office is very pleased to select her to be this year’s Washington State DCLA recipient.”

The organization began roughly 13 years ago when a volunteer search and rescue person Mama Ginger knew requested her to bring out warm food to a crime scene. It became apparent to The Soup Lady that first responders had an important job to do and they could not afford to send a vital person out for food. They were basically “stuck” eating whatever was stuffed in their pocket, such as granola bars.

The Soup Ladies’ mission is a demanding job relying on 50 volunteers who are expected to be able to lift 50 pounds of supplies, stand for long periods, be out in the elements for extended periods of time, be willing to sleep on floors in a pinch, and to work through the challenges with a positive attitude and professional demeanor. Volunteers are expected to pay for their own transportation and uniforms when called out on a mission. They are also required to complete Command System certification training through FEMA, get fingerprinted, and complete background checks.

Even though volunteers are expected to pay for their own transportation, they have not shied away from opportunities to help. Ninety-nine percent of their assistance is for short-term, 24- to 72-hour incidents. But there are exceptions like the recent Oso, Washington landslide disaster during which The Soup Ladies contributed more than 6,000 hot, home-cooked meals for all first responders. They even travel out of state, including a recent Dallas, Texas crime scene. 

Mama Ginger and The Soup Ladies’ accomplishments and service extend even further beyond the Seattle-area community. Currently, there is one chapter in Black Diamond, Washington, but The Soup Ladies are working hard on setting in place the framework for starting chapters in other locations. The long-term goal is to have a chapter in every community, with people taking care of their own first responders.

A graduate of the FBI Seattle Field Office’s 2013 Citizens Academy, Mama Ginger also serves as a Chaplain for the Auburn and Black Diamond police departments and the Mountain View and Valley regional fire departments. 

For those innumerable ways she positively impacts the greater Seattle community, the FBI honors Mama Ginger Passarelli with designation as Washington State’s 2016 DCLA recipient.