‘Mercy Chefs’ Provide Restaurant-Quality Food to First Responders and Victims of Harvey
Chef Gary LeBlanc had worked in the hotel and restaurant industry for years by the time Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. LeBlanc was living in Virginia at the time and decided to volunteer to help Katrina victims with a mobile feeding organization. But the lack of sanitation and lack of professional acumen got him thinking that somebody should do this — the right way. Now he feeds people restaurant-quality meals on the front lines of disasters.
After Katrina, he had thoughts about how he could provide food to victims of a disaster, he said in an interview with The Stream. Nine months after Katrina, he felt called to feed people through a mobile disaster response unit. “Mercy Chefs was born in that moment,” he said.
Serving Meals For Those Hit Hardest
Now he is providing hot meals for those hit hardest by Hurricane Harvey. Two mobile kitchens with power generators are now in Texas, one in Rockport, where the eye of the storm hit, the other in Friendswood, near Houston.
In Rockport, LeBlanc said it looks like a 50-mile-wide tornado sat over the town. “There’s no power, all lines are down. Water is out. There are no services in town.” Unlike other areas, folks here didn’t leave. Between the two kitchens, LeBlanc expects to hand out 14 to 16 thousand meals per day.
His chefs and volunteers are committed. “They’re sleeping on the floor in trailers on air mattresses,” he said, and some are staying in a jail that was evacuated, with no air conditioning. “They’re dedicated, they’d do anything [to help].” LeBlanc has 12 chefs and another 30 volunteers.
Prayers and Volunteers Needed
But the need for volunteers will be great in the next few weeks. “We’re okay on volunteers now,” said LeBlanc, but he anticipates that many of them will return to work and school after Labor Day. Many of the chefs are taking leaves of absence from their jobs to help. After they go home, he’ll need more volunteers.
For now, LeBlanc asks people to pray. “We’re asking people to do three things,” he said. “Pray for the people we’re serving. We feel the prayers in the field. Pray that God will create hope in their hearts. Second, volunteer.… Third, support us financially. We don’t take federal or state money. We are a faith-based but ecumenical group. We are supported by individuals.”
In the meantime, what he’s seeing in the field is inspirational, to say the least. “It’s neighbors helping neighbors, Texans helping Texans, Americans helping Americans.”
Go to mercychefs.com for more information on Mercy Chefs, or to volunteer or donate.