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Mercy Chefs assists Ukrainian refugees in Romania

The team plans to serve more than 40,000 meals Thursday. Founder Gary LeBlanc said overall, the group could serve a million meals during the trip.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Portsmouth-based Mercy Chefs is one of multiple organizations in Hampton Roads helping Ukrainian refugees. 

Mercy Chefs Founder Gary LeBlanc is used to helping those struck by devastation, but he said the invasion into Ukraine evokes a different emotion.

“Unnecessary infliction of pain and suffering and death on a civilian population is hard to reconcile,” he said.

The team hopped on a plane Tuesday to go to Romania and help many Ukrainian refugees escaping the Russian invasion. On Wednesday, the team secured a warehouse on the Romania-Ukraine border, where they will stockpile food and other necessary supplies as refugees are seeing a shortage of those items. 

“We’re also hearing of a great need for infant formula, and we’re hearing about people on daily medications either for diabetes or high blood pressure," LeBlanc said. "So, we’re trying to make arrangements to bring in medical supplies as well.”

LeBlanc said the organization contracted with a local trucking company to help serve food to refugees in Romania and to those in Ukraine who can’t leave the country. He said getting in and out of Ukraine poses a challenge.

“Getting food into Ukraine isn’t going to be as difficult as getting those trucks and drivers back out into Romania easily," he said. "We’re concerned for their safety.”

LeBlanc said the organizations is working to establish a field kitchen to prepare meals. He said the team plans to serve more than 40,000 meals Thursday. 

In all, LeBlanc said the group could serve a million meals during the trip as Ukrainians continue to flee the country.

“We just want to be ready to extend a hand of love, and to take care of them in that moment,” he said.

Thursday, LeBlanc wasn't sure how long the team would assist in Romania.

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