When first responders spring into action following a disaster, there is a volunteer organization that works at the scene to serve up quality meals for victims and rescuers alike. While first responders are busily using their tools of the trade to saw through fallen tree limbs in the wake of a tornado or dig out from a flood, volunteers from Mercy Chefs work dutifully nearby with spatulas in hand, scrambling eggs and flipping pancakes to fuel the response effort.
The idea for Mercy Chefs was born while R. Gary LeBlanc, an exec who made a career in the hospitality industry, was leading a team of responders in his home state of Louisiana in the days after Hurricane Katrina. He saw the need for an efficient, mobile, sanitary, professional setup to provide food onsite.
Mercy Chefs is a non-profit ministry that trains food service volunteers, recruits chefs and provides equipment. The faith-based organization sends “mobile kitchens” to disaster areas and has established a network of highly skilled volunteer chefs in Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Arizona.
According to Gary, “There is something about a shared meal that brings people together. When we hand someone who has lost everything a hot meal, it blesses us. To see them take a moment of pause … mentally, emotionally and physically … and eat a delicious meal in the midst of devastation, we feel that we’ve made a difference that day.”
Since 2007, when Mercy Chefs put its first mobile kitchen on the road, the group has been on the scene at disasters ranging from tornadoes in Moore, Oklahoma to flooding in New York after Superstorm Sandy, serving a total of 1,000,000 meals.
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