PORTSMOUTH, VA – Natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes can leave families as deprived of food and shelter as people displaced from war zones or subject to abject poverty. Having a pantry and a refrigerator full of food before a disaster strikes are useless after it has passed.Gary LeBlanc had already spent 35 years in the hospitality industry when he volunteered to help families in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina had devastated much of the city in 2006. He witnessed firsthand the intense and widespread destruction.He also observed “the incredible difference a hot meal could make” for both those whose lives had been disrupted and those who were there to help. But something else bothered LeBlanc like a burr under a saddle. He “was surprised and outraged by the quality of food being served.”Fourteen years later, the faith-based, not-for-profit mobile kitchen food service he established, Mercy Chefs, has served more than 2,000,000 meals in disaster recovery areas across the United States.
From humble beginnings, Mercy Chefs now has three mobile kitchens and two refrigerated trailers that are ready to respond whenever and to wherever they are needed.
“Our mobile kitchens are self-sustaining, able to run in areas without power, and capable of purifying their own water. This enables our team to bring relief even in the most inopportune of circumstances.”
Mercy Chefs works in cooperation and at the invitation of local churches and Christian organizations that provide volunteers to serve and distribute healthy restaurant-quality meals to the hungry. The hot meal does make an incredible difference, and it offers an opportunity for the church volunteers to minister to the brokenhearted while others on their local team help with recovery and repairs.
By partnering with local churches, Mercy Chefs helps to maximize the ongoing, long-term work of those ministries as the people impacted recall and respond to the grace extended to them in their greatest need.
When the Mercy Chef teams are not immediately involved in disaster relief, they are engaged in food-insecure communities to provide meals for the homeless and impoverished.
Mercy Chefs is a perfect example of a highly-focused ministry in which people of faith use the talents God has given them to do meet a specific need and to cooperate with others who can assist in other ways.
For a group of people trained and talented in the culinary arts, the opportunity to serve in disaster relief is clear: “Just Go Feed People.” As Gary LeBlanc suggests, “Volunteer or partner with us and see what God can do.”
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