PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Help is pouring in from across the country for communities recently hit hard by tornadoes. That includes help from groups here in Hampton Roads.
10 On Your Side spoke with representatives from several organizations with boots on the ground. Virginia Task Force 2, the urban search and rescue team, sent two members to Kentucky. Operation Blessing, Mercy Chefs and American Red Cross volunteers are also responding.
The destruction left behind by tornado activity in Mayfield, Kentucky is utterly devastating both physically and emotionally, according to Mercy Chefs Founder Gary LeBlanc.
Mercy Chefs, a Portsmouth-based organization, happened to be in Tennessee doing Christmas outreach Saturday. They were then feeding victims in Mayfield, Kentucky, hours after the twister hit.
“One dear older gentleman that came through the line yesterday to get meals, someone just asked him ‘Do you have plans for Christmas?’ and he burst into tears. He hadn’t yet thought about Christmas and he was like, ‘Well I lost a family member and I lost my home. I just don’t know what I’m going to do,'” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc’s team is working around the clock to feed victims and first responders. They need more help and it’s on the way. Nine volunteers from the Virginia chapter of the American Red Cross hit the road Monday morning with three emergency response vehicles.
“We will probably go from shelter to shelter delivering food. We have bins in the back of this vehicle that have hot food,” said Ned Worman. The Chesapeake man is prepared to help in any way he can.
“My initial deployment will be two weeks, I may come home after that to see my kids for Christmas and in all likelihood, I’ll probably go back,” Woman said.
The Virginia Red Cross also sent more than 200 blood products to help the victim, as the nation continues to face the largest blood shortage in a decade.
Regional Communications Director Jonathan McNamara encourages people to roll up their sleeves.
“When you make a donation in the coastal area, you’re not only supporting hospitals in your area, but you’re helping support the national blood supply to allow us to make sure the hospitals in those impacted areas don’t have to deal with a second crisis,” he said.
Virginia Beach-based Operation Blessing is loading truckloads of disaster relief kits and assessing long-term relief efforts, which could include removing debris from damaged homes and helping residents salvage some of their belongings.
“A tornado is not something that you can always prepare for in the sense that the warning will sometimes be as short as 20 minutes from the time of impact. On a Friday night and so close to the holidays, in the middle of December, it certainly took all of us by surprise,” said Andrea Coffarelli.
Coffarelli, who serves as the organization’s logistics manager, explains that once the organization got word of the severe weather phenomenon, teams were on the road in a matter of hours.
All the organizations plan to send more volunteers and supplies in the weeks and months to come in order to do that they’ll need some help from home.
You can make donations or sign up to volunteer here: