FORT MYERS, Fla. (WAVY)- The Portsmouth-based group, Mercy Chefs, is on the ground in Southwest Florida, distributing tens of thousands of meals a day.

Gary LeBlanc, the group’s founder and CEO, says they’re prepared to cook and distribute 20,000-30,000 meals a day as the community recovers from Hurricane Ian’s damage.

The nonprofit deploys to disaster scenes to feed community members and first responders. LeBlanc says local churches and organizations assist with the distribution.

“We always believe that neighbors helping neighbor is the best way to recovery,” he said. “We’re doing the heavy lifting, but we’re pushing these folks out to help their neighbors.”

The group just opened a storehouse in Tanner, A.l., where it can store and distribute food to virtually half of the country. LeBlanc said he was expecting multiple tractor trailers to deliver more food today.

Chefs haven’t skipped a beat since arriving in Southwest Florida, immediately serving up warm meals.

“Last night, we did a beautiful beef and sausage and pasta bake and we served that with a green bean and a fruit compote that we made and some rolls,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc said for many who’ve experience disasters, their first warm meal is a time for reflection.

“We see it all the time people just take that first moment where they contemplate their circumstance so there are a lot of tears and a lot of breakdowns that happen over that hot meal,” he said. “It’s incredibly humbling to come and stand with people who’ve been through so much. Everyone always says ‘blessings on you.’ I’ve never left a site that we’ve worked that I wasn’t more blessed than when I showed up.”

To learn more about Mercy Chefs or to donate, visit