PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – It was a big year for Portsmouth-based non-profit Mercy Chefs as they shattered many records. It was also a big year for growth, growing in their ability to make a difference.

“This year has been a busy year for us in so many ways,” said Mercy Chefs Founder Gary LeBlanc.

From war efforts in Ukraine to wildfires in New Mexico, tornadoes in Louisiana floods in Eastern Kentucky, and hurricanes in Puerto Rico and Florida. Mercy Chefs is coming off a record-breaking year.

“This year has been nonstop, the disasters just seem to keep coming and they’re growing in magnitude and certainly were growing in our ability to make a greater effect when we go into a community,” said LeBlanc.

Leblanc says they shattered their records for total meals served in a disaster during Hurricane Ian, hitting 240-thousand meals, and broke their single-day record too.

“23,000 meals in one day is an incredible feat but to do that in the middle of already doing 20,000 meals a day for 9 days was just phenomenal,” said LeBlanc.

Throughout the year, they also opened a 30-thousand-square-foot storage facility in Tanner, Alabama so they could access resources close to the gulf.

Even though they’ve already served in 11 different countries, they also launched Mercy Chefs Global this year.

“We’re making sure that we can stay focused on our needs right here in Hampton Roads with our community kitchen and disasters around the us like we always have but focusing on global we know that we need an additional separate team,” said LeBlanc.

They’re also in the process of building a kitchen in Honduras, while also continuing efforts in Ukraine.

“This year’s been full of big disasters and a great deal of human tragedy, every one of them has a story and a person that I’m reminded of,” said LeBlanc.

For LeBlanc, it’s the story of a little girl who lost both her legs in Ukraine and was headed to be fitted for prosthetics. She was playing ping pong with one of their chefs who was taking it easy on her.

“She was just like don’t take it easy on me, don’t feel sorry for me. we found out she did get fitted for prosthetics and as she returned to her village they were at a road block and Russian forces opened fire and she was killed,” said LeBlanc. “That pierced us all greatly.”

And even when they feel like all hope is lost, hope continues to be served.

“We just want to comfort people and stand with them in their great time of need,” said LeBlanc.

LeBlanc just came back from Ukraine a few weeks ago. He says they spent time focusing on the kids, especially those who are newly orphaned to try to make the holidays special for them as they’re going through hard times.

They’re also using their storehouse in Tanner, Alabama to send out food boxes to people facing food insecurity in Rural America.

If you’d like to help with their ongoing missions, visit their website.