Virginia organization deploys to Arkansas after catastrophic storms

Published: Apr. 3, 2023 at 10:14 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 3, 2023 at 10:20 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A Virginia group is sending some relief to those impacted by the deadly tornadoes that tore through Arkansas.

Mercy Chefs, a disaster relief organization here in the commonwealth, already has crews on the ground in Arkansas preparing to serve thousands of meals to people in need.

Gary LeBlanc, the founder of Mercy Chefs, says his team drove through the night to get to Little Rock which took the brunt of the damage from a tornado the National Weather Service referred to as catastrophic.

“We’ve seen tractor trailers that were flipped on top of each other, cars that were literally on top of homes, roofs gone, whole homes gone,” LeBlanc described.

LeBlanc felt so strongly about helping those in need that he left his vacation early to get to Arkansas.

“It’s a little bit of a shock to me I was on a cruise ship yesterday morning ... it was a whole vacation. I had to carve four days off of it, but it’s all okay. This is where I should be and this is what I should be doing,” he said.

The Mercy Chefs group brought a mobile kitchen, a refrigerated truck, and some other vehicles with them in order to prepare the food and clean water.

“We’ll be doing some pot pies, beautiful hand-made chicken pot-pies, we’ll be doing some Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes and fresh green beans. All of our meals are accompanied by a roll or bread of some sort and a dessert that we make here on-site we just know that folks want something that’s familiar and comforting to them,” LeBlanc explained.

The Mercy Chefs crew is set up at New Life Church in Little Rock where they’ll serve thousands of meals each day to help feed those who lost everything in the storms.

“Well, Mercy Chefs has three of our mainline chefs that are here. We have about another eight staff people. We’ll also be working primarily through volunteers here in the community. We’ll have up to 50 volunteers a day,” he said.

The group doesn’t have a timeline for how long they plan to stay in Arkansas. They said they will remain there as long as they are needed.

Mercy Chefs also has a crew in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, which was hit by a deadly tornado a little more than a week ago. The group started serving meals last weekend.