PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Mercy Chefs is on the ground in Bertie County on Wednesday night to serve dinner to first responders.
It’s been quite the year for the Portsmouth-based nonprofit. Mercy Chefs is facing two crises and working on two fronts: hurricane relief and coronavirus relief.
The group's founder and president Gary LeBlanc said in addition to the devastation in Bertie County, they continue hurricane relief efforts in Texas and COVID-19 relief efforts in Hampton Roads, and across the country.
“We’ve never seen anything like this. This is a fully exponential demand. It’s more than three times what we’ve been doing," LeBlanc said.
“It took us 10 years to do our first million meals. It took us three years to do our second million meals, and we’ve done three million meals in one year. It’s just been incredible the need that’s been discovered.”
Mercy Chefs served more than one million meals in the month of July, alone--and three million since March.
“We’ve continued and expanded our corona response and now we’re falling into hurricanes season and it is just a lot," LeBlanc said.
“We’ve been supporting law enforcement and first responders down in Bertie County with the tornado that dropped off from Isaias and making sure they have nice, beautiful meals so they can do their business with a full belly.”
Tonight's response in Bertie County is the second hurricane relief effort for the group in as many weeks. They are still on the ground in South Texas helping in the aftermath of Hurricane Hanna – serving meals in four cities hit hard by the storm and COVID-19.
“There’s such great need all the time, but now we’ve had the flooding on top of the COVID outbreak and that little part of our country is just reeling right now,” LeBlanc said.
And more coronavirus relief work continues in Hampton Roads.
“Here in Tidewater, we’re doing five days a week of grocery box distribution,” LeBlanc said.
He said this year has been non-stop. It started with tornado relief efforts in Tennessee and then his team quickly stepped up efforts to feed millions of hungry families during the coronavirus. And now, it’s hurricane season.
“For everyone one person I find that’s hungry, I know there are three more and our battle, our commitment is to get to as many of them as possible,” LeBlanc said.
“Any anxiety we feel is, are we getting to everyone that we possibly can. I know we can get to everyone who needs us but are we getting to as many people as possible.”
LeBlanc says his team isn't slowing down and they're working to reach as many people as they can.