TANNER, Ala. (WHNT) — A non-profit that recently put down roots in North Alabama is preparing to respond ahead of Hurricane Ian.
Mercy Chefs, a non-profit that formed in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, serves restaurant quality meals in times of disaster.
“We focus on the people, getting down on an eye to eye level with folks that have lost everything,” says founder and CEO Gary LeBlanc.
The organization is leaving their new storehouse in Tanner, Ala. for the first time to travel to Florida to feed victims, volunteers and first responders in the aftermath of hurricane Ian.
Mercy Chefs Founder Gary LeBlanc is from New Orleans. He says after Hurricane Katrina, he realized there had to be a better way to feed people in times of disaster.
“New Orleans was my hometown and I went down and volunteered with a bunch of other groups and I just thought there was a better way to feed people that had just had the worst day of their lives,” says LeBlanc.
Over 16 years, the organization has responded to over 160 disasters in 27 states, and 11 foreign countries and served 22 million meals.
“We find that brings that small sense of normalcy to be able to gather as a family around a meal and for many of them it will be the first time they take a moment and contemplate what has just happened to them,” says LeBlanc.
Now, part of that work will be dispatched from a new storehouse in Tanner.
“We have equipment here,” says LeBlanc. “We have one mobile kitchen that just left here today. We have a refrigerator truck that left today. They rest of the equipment all pulls out tomorrow with another of our very large kitchens.”
Leblanc says the storehouse provides a place to hold food, water, and equipment.
“From this part of Alabama, we can reach anywhere in the eastern us that we need to get to. It’s a very strategic location for us,” says LeBlanc.
The Mercy Chefs team just returned from helping in Puerto Ricco and is getting ready to deploy again. They will pre-stage just out of the storm track standing ready to feed victims, volunteers, and first responders. They expect to serve 10 to 15 thousand meals daily.
“We will be on the ground cooking within 12 hours of when the wind gets below 40 miles per hour,” says LeBlanc.