Suzan Krecsy, Q&A
What's your favourite book?
"Pretty boring stuff. Psychology books around deviant behaviour."
What's your favourite movie?
"The Da Vinci Code. I usually don't watch shows over and over again. I've seen that one about six times. I love it!"
When you were still a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
"I still wanted to be a farmer."
What do you want to see on your tombstone?
"I don't intend on having a tombstone."
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
"Other than my family, this place," referring to the food bank. "We've tried to make it more of a family atmosphere here."
Do you have any superstitions?
"I do! I'm very superstitious. My grandmother was from Scotland so I was brought up with that. Walking under a ladder … we were never allowed to do that. It's probably more common sense than anything when you look at it. Why would you walk under a ladder that somebody's on?"
Apart from busy restaurant chefs and produce managers at local grocery stores, there is probably no one around St. Albert whose life revolves so much around food than Suzan Krecsy.
When she isn't growing vegetables in her home garden, finding fresh produce at the farmers' market, or preparing another fine meal of ethnic or gourmet cuisine in her own kitchen, she spends her workdays and some of her free time trying to feed the city's hungry souls who struggle to put food on their own plates.
Krecsy, the director of the St. Albert Food Bank, was 12 when she first started preparing meals for the work crews on her family's dairy farm in British Columbia's Fraser Valley. She hasn't stopped since.
"There's a lot more food security, of course, growing up on the farm than what we're seeing in an urban setting," she said, remembering the fresh milk and beef that she had a-plenty during her youth.
"People couldn't believe it when I'd complain, 'Aw! Steak again tonight!' We ate very, very well. We grew all of our own vegetables and we canned everything ourselves," she said.
Nowadays, the gregarious and ever-positive 57-year-old wishes everybody could have what she had. It was idyllic and it prepared her for a life of work, of never resting or slowing down, and of always, always trying to help people.
"I always have," she admits.
Krecsy was still in her teens when she recognized her own passion of caring for others. At 15, she started taking physically and mentally challenged individuals to a summer camp. Her parents encouraged her to follow this natural tendency and get into nursing. She did, she says, not because she really wanted to but because "it was safe, and there was not too much choice. You either became a teacher or a nurse."
She rolls her eyes at those prospects.
"I don't like hospitals," she said. "I learned a lot in nursing but I really learned that I don't like a lot of rules."
Change of direction
After a few years on the hospital floor, she became a program director in a mental health home. Later, she decided that she wanted to further pursue another career, going to Simon Fraser University to take a double major in cultural anthropology and archaeology.
She was 23 when she moved to Germany for a greater anthropological education. She still remembers the travel advice given to her by her neighbour before she took the trip.
"She said that the one thing I should do is enjoy the food because that's the one thing in life you should always enjoy," Krescy recalls. "I went over there with that in mind, and it was fabulous."
The food was not the only memorable thing about Europe. That's where she met her husband, a Canadian soldier named Ward who was posted there. Together, they had two daughters, and their first grandchild was born only six weeks ago.
Krecsy's daughter Rebecca thinks the world of her mother, and laughs at the truth that her work at the food bank consumes so much of her life and attention. Krecsy is an indomitable force when it comes to getting family and friends involved in the work and learning about helping others.
"We all chip in," Rebecca said.
Her childhood involved moving around a bit because of her dad's military career, which challenged the family's stability but Rebecca says her mother was a rock who kept everyone grounded.
"Mom really strived to make sure that our rooms were always set up the same way," she said. "She always made sure that we were number one. Her whole family has always been her top priority. She did whatever it took."
She also fondly remembered how Krecsy would scrimp and save to make sure the single income family always had a Parks Canada pass. They might not have been able to afford trips to Europe but they could still explore the world.
A sense of altruism was also always there.
"You are part of a community; you need to give back," Rebecca said of the philosophy that Krecsy imparted. "If you're able to, do it."
She added that she wants her own child to grow up knowing the importance of those same lessons.
"He's getting involved in the community as soon as he's able to walk!" she said.
Having a new mouth to feed in the family is one thing that occupies Krecsy's attention outside of work, but Krecsy has a few hobbies too. Canoeing is one, sewing another, but she says cooking is a real passion.
"Both my brother and I absolutely really, really enjoy cooking. I've done it since I was little," she said.
Her own home garden is simple and includes mostly staple vegetables: beets, carrots, beans and some herbs. This is because of her other time commitments that take her away from the backyard. Besides, she says, the St. Albert Farmers' Market is so good that she doesn't need to grow any more herself. It's one of her favourite places on a summer Saturday.
She says that she's never satisfied with sitting still and resting on her laurels. The food bank has gone through some big changes in the last five years under her guidance, just like the food bank in Ottawa that she used to run.
When her kids were still young, there was no daycare around … so she started one.
"That's probably what I enjoy doing most … just taking something from scratch and building on it."