Portsmouth-based Mercy Chefs responding to Alabama after deadly tornado


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth-based Mercy Chefs is responding to Alabama to serve meals to those in need after a tornado devastated the Fultondale area Monday night.

Wednesday the Mercy Chef’s team in Alabama prepared meals for the community and first responders through their mobile kitchen.

“Homes have been cleared down to the slabs, and it’s just in that town — it’s an utter wasteland,” said founder Gary LeBlanc.

Mercy Chefs mobilized Tuesday and planned to serve its first meal in Fultondale for lunch on Wednesday.

First responders and victims are both eligible to get the meals, which will be served at the Church of the Highlands Fultondale Campus, located at 3250 Lowery Parkway in Fultondale.

Mercy Chefs is also assessing the damage to see if more widespread community meals will be needed.

“I heard that there are approximately 100 families that have been displaced. So we’ll have to do the shelters to provide food. But more importantly, today, we’re feeding those victims as they sift through what’s left of their homes,’ said LeBlanc on Wednesday.

His team had their mobile kitchen out planning to serve 1,000 meals. It is a part of their mission to bring help when it’s needed.

But in the 15 years they’ve been helping communities, COVID-19 has added another element the past year.

“The pandemic has compounded the complexity of what we do, and just [in an] unbelievable way. We have established protocols that fit with all the state and CDC guidelines. So we’re able to prepare and serve food in the most safe manner possible,” he said.

He says they will be there through the weekend, but will always be available for as long as they are needed.

“The folks in Alabama are incredibly resilient, and they’re taking care of each other in the most wonderful way that any community could. We’re proud to stand with them and serve them in their time of need,” he added.

Gary said they hope to provide 2,000 meals by the end of the weekend. If needed, they have another mobile kitchen in Florida ready to deploy to help.

Mercy Chefs has responded to numerous states and regions to serve professionally prepared, restaurant-quality meals after various emergencies and natural disasters. The nonprofit has Mercy Chefs served more than 9.5 million meals since its founding in 2006, including 7 million meals in response to the coronavirus pandemic since mid-March.

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