Mercy Chefs, a Virginia-based nonprofit and faith-based disaster relief organization on Sunday deployed their team of professional chefs and volunteers, along with their mobile kitchens and refrigerated trailer, to feed thousands in the Baton Rouge, La., region, while residents seek to recover from record-setting flooding. Mercy Chefs' team members are now on-site in the disaster zone, starting to serve 7,500 restaurant-quality meals daily for victims, first responders and volunteers.
Mercy Chefs' founder, Gary LeBlanc, told The Gospel Herald the Baton Rouge area really is a mess. "People's stories are reminding me of conversations I had with folks following Hurricane Katrina. Many residents escaped their homes in vehicles only to become stranded on overpasses and roadways," he said.
"Over 20,000 water rescues have taken place now, and these evacuees need shelter, food and water. We are able to provide them with the later, and shelters are popping up all across the region."
LeBlanc said Louisiana needs immediate support, and he hopes many people will consider partnering with Mercy Chefs to deliver relief for the victims of this terrible disaster. Online financial donations to Mercy Chefs' cause can be made through Paypal.
This is Mercy Chefs' ninth disaster deployment in 2016, and their third to Louisiana, according to Christian News Service. The organization is a nondenominational group.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency, warning residents and guests that rivers and flood waters are still on the rise. An estimated 7,000 residents were rescued from their homes, 5,000 are in shelters, and three have lost their lives in this ongoing disaster.
Mercy Chefs' mobile kitchen is stationed in Baton Rouge at Bethany Church, preparing midday and evening meals. Mercy Chefs' mobile food truck drivers also will deliver meals to surrounding areas.
Facebook friend of Mercy Chefs, Rita Wood, posted Monday: "Prayers for you and all you do. My family and I had a couple of your delicious meals when you were in Rainelle WV. It was wonderful to have a meal at the end of a day of hard work. I will donate and will be sharing this and challenging others in my area to donate to help you help the people of Louisiana. God bless you all and you efforts!"
Mercy Chefs was founded by LeBlanc, himself a trained chef, in 2006 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to provide professionally prepared, restaurant-quality meals to victims, volunteers and first responders in natural disasters and national emergencies. Jenni Cutchin, volunteer coordinator and administrative assistant for the nonprofit, said LeBlanc felt the call of the Lord when Hurricane Katrina hit, so he quickly gathered food supplies from where he was living in Virginia, and rushed back to his hometown New Orleans to assist. He eventually then left his hotel management career to permanently help feed people in times of disasters.
"God tested Gary's faith and his resolve to get things done, and God also opened doors for Gary," said Cutchin, who said the humble group is not huge, but is still growing.
Since its founding, Mercy Chefs has served more than a million meals. In 2015, the group received both the Virginia Governor's Volunteerism Award and the Hampton Roads Volunteer Achievement Award.