Portsmouth-based Mercy Chefs on the ground in Surfside, supporting rescue crews and families

The Surfside community in Florida is very diverse, so the Mercy Chefs is making sure the meals they serve are too. They will keep hearty meals cooking.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Search and rescue teams have operated nonstop for five days now in Florida. Miami-Dade officials reported on Monday that more than 150 people are still lost under the rubble where the condominium collapsed.

Mercy Chefs volunteers are already on the ground there.

“We just want to be there with a meal and a kind heart,” said Mercy Chefs founder Gary LeBlanc.

Immediately after hearing a condo building collapsed on Thursday, LeBlanc said part of his crew packed up for Florida.

“We have been doing breakfast down there for four days now,” LeBlanc said. “We have one of our big mobile kitchens en route, it will be there tonight.”

First responders are working around the clock to find more than 150 people still missing in the rubble.

“These folks are working in unimaginable conditions and finding unimaginable things,” LeBlanc said. “I can’t imagine what is going through their minds.”

He wants to ensure rescue crews have the fuel they need to keep going.

“For these search and rescue teams, that are out for 12-hour days, to be able to get a breakfast before they go in, or a boxed lunch,” LeBlanc said. “Or even to come out and dinner and sit down with our team and decompress.”

The Mercy Chefs are set up at St. Joseph’s Church. LeBlanc said leaders there are waiting to hear if people in 12 of their own church families survived.

“That entire state, that entire region, that entire city is just on pins and needles waiting for the word,” LeBlanc said.

The need for help grows daily, so a second Portsmouth crew is on standby.

“A strong group of people with that passion to go feed people who would not get fed otherwise, unless they have to stop and go out to eat,” said Mercy Chefs VP of Community Kitchens Thomas Yager. “We can bring them a nice hot meal right there to where they are at.”

The Surfside community in Miami is very diverse, so the Mercy Chefs are making sure the meals they serve are too.

“There are a lot of Latin people, there are a lot of Cuban, there are a lot of Haitian, and there is a very large Jewish population there,” LeBlanc said. “So, Mercy Chefs is being tapped for our ability to produce a wide spectrum of food with our professional chefs.”

They will keep hearty meals flowing as long as possible.

“It’s a very difficult situation for them and we are proud to stand with them in any way we can,” LeBlanc said.

You can help the Mercy Chefs with disaster relief here.

Rebecca R. Ammons

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