PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — As wildfires burn across California, a Hampton Roads non-profit is stepping in to help.
Mercy Chefs is based in Portsmouth, but right now a crew is in the Golden State helping provide relief for those fleeing the flames.
From sunup to sundown, Mercy Chefs’ latest mission is providing some comfort to Californians during their time of need.
“If that’s all we can do is come to a shelter and provide that love on a plate for folks, then that’s been a wonderful thing,” said Gary LeBlanc, founder of Mercy Chefs.
LeBlanc and his crew have been cooking up meals at a shelter in Marin County, California.
The non-profit got the call for assistance, so they drove through the night from Dallas where one of their mobile kitchens was already providing tornado disaster relief.
“When we first pulled in, the smoke was all down the valley. We could see glowing in the distance,” LeBlanc said.
The kitchen and crew have been working long days serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner to about 800 evacuees and dozens of first responders.
“I’ve seen lines of people waiting for a meal that will all step to the side to move the firefighters to the front and then the line of people burst out into applause for them,” he said.
LeBlanc said it’s the least they can do for neighbors in need.
“To come to a place where people have lost so much or been under such a great threat and displaced and to share a hand-crafted, chef-prepared meal with them is incredibly rewarding,” he said.
We’re told an evacuation order near the area where Mercy Chefs was set up has been lifted, however they plan to travel to Southern California where another wildfire is burning to offer help there if it’s needed.