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On September 20, 2017 Hurricane Maria pummeled the island of Puerto Rico as a Category 4 Hurricane. The damage was catastrophic. One-hundred percent of power on the island was knocked out, eighty percent of communications towers were downed and over fifty percent of the island was left without clean water access.
Logistics for this response were among the most challenging ever faced by Mercy Chefs’ team. Despite these challenges, the crew established two kitchens on the island with partner churches in Guaynabo and Manati. In addition, Mercy Chefs has installed water purification units across the island in key communities where access to potable water was obsolete. Daily, five Mercy Chefs’ units are collectively producing 10,560 gallons of safe drinking water for residents.
The Tubbs Fire in California has now been labeled as the most destructive in California’s recorded history. Over forty-two deaths were confirmed as a result of the fire, with many more missing-persons reports still unsolved. In total, thirteen fires across the state consumed 220,000 acres this fall destroying 6,700 structures, most of which were personal residences and businesses.
Mercy Chefs was quick to respond to the call for help and stationed in Sonoma County just blocks away from Coffey Park where a community 1,300 homes were destroyed and many lives were lost. Over the course of a week a team of professional chefs led by Chef Lisa Saylor fed over 10,000 meals to first responders, search and recovery, firefighters, police officers and displaced residents, but more than food, this response was about the ministry of the soul to the families, who were left with nothing but ash and rubble.
The destruction from Hurricane Harvey in Rockport and Houston, Texas is unfathomable. In our eleven years of providing disaster relief, this this is the largest response Mercy Chefs has ever provided. Already, we have served more than 100,000 meals to victims, first responders and volunteers from our two stations in Texas. As we continue our work in the Lone Star state, we must also turn our attention to an East Coast strike from Category 5 Hurricane Irma.
Our team is committed to serving Texas as long as there is a need for our relief meals. We will also be preparing to deploy to the area of greatest following Irma’s impact. To partner with us in providing urgently needed relief, please click on the Donate tab at the top, or on our Get Involved tab, where you can become a volunteer.
From the last weekend in July through the first week in September, Mercy Chefs partnered with the Baltimore Police Department and Somebody Cares Baltimore to host a "Summer of Peace" in Baltimore City. Throughout the summer weeks, Mercy Chefs stationed at different locations across the city to serve "Peace Meals" to the community.
During a year when homicides and violence in the the city were record-breaking, Mercy Chefs helped bring a reduction in crime to the neighborhoods surrounding their 32 peace meal venues. In the weeks following the meals, only one incident of violence was reported within these areas. Statistically police expect to see a 23% reduction in crime for 90 days following these Peace Meals.
Following a deadly tornado in April of 2017, Mercy Chefs deployed to Canton, Texas. Within hours of the tornado's initial strike, the team was on the ground in Canton with meal service beginning the following day.
This response proved to be the largest tornado response of the 2017 season, with Mercy Chefs serving thousands of meals daily for victims, volunteers and first responders. Several local partners stepped up to provide donated product and support for the team on this deployment, which enabled Mercy Chefs to sustain a larger response during their week long relief efforts.
Following Hurricane Matthew's devastating blow, Mercy Chefs carried out a trifold response. In Cap Haitien, Haiti the team delivered and installed two new water filtration systems to provide long-term access to clean water for hurricane victims.
The organization then provided simultaneous relief in South Carolina and North Carolina to victims, first responders and volunteers. Over the course of two weeks, thousands of meals were prepared and served between the two site locations. This also became Mercy Chefs' first clean water response within the United States due to a prolonged loss of water access in Lumberton, North Carolina.
Over four trillion gallons of water fell on Louisiana in just two days, which led to a flood of historic proportions. Local reports listed 200,000 homes as damaged or destroyed and twenty parishes received Federal Disaster Declarations due to the extensive devastation. Many have labeled this disaster the worst since Superstorm Sandy.
Mercy Chefs was among the first to respond. Within 24 hours of receiving a request for aid, our team was on the ground cooking. Over the course of nine days, our team of professional chefs and volunteers contributed a total of 7,800 volunteer hours and served a total of 63,500 meals to victims and first responders. Though the emergency relief portion of our response has ended, we will continue to be a partner in the long term recovery efforts for the area.
This June’s flood in West Virginia was labeled a 1,000-year event with the Elk River cresting at a record high of 33.37 feet. Tragically twenty-three people lost their lives among the small mountain communities. Due to the rarity of flooding in the region, less than two percent of insured homes were covered in the event of a flood. Once the total damage was assessed, three counties received a Federal Disaster Declaration. The scene was overwhelming.
Mercy Chefs’ team of professional and volunteer chefs served more than 14,000 meals in the aftermath of this flood to the towns of White Sulphur Springs and Rainelle, both in Greenbrier County. Our self-sustaining mobile kitchens are able to operate without the provision of outside power or potable water. This capability proved essential for our response in West Virginia as power outages stretched through the deployment and boil advisories remained in place until our departure. The team is already planning a return this Thanksgiving to celebrate recovery.
Twice our team deployed to the greater Houston area in response to the extreme flooding that swept through the region this spring. In April we set up site at the North West Community Church in the Cyprus Creek neighborhood. Daily our chefs prepared 2,000 meals for victims, volunteers and first responders.
Just six short weeks later, our team was back on the ground to bring relief to a second round of flooding. This time in Brazoria County along the Brazos River. There we served between 1,000 and 1,400 meals daily - mainly to evacuees staying in the emergency shelters and to first responders working tirelessly to make water rescues. On both deployments Mercy Chefs partnered with the local Salvation Army to make meal deliveries to flood victims, who were unable to reach the distribution site.
After Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency for Louisiana due to heavy rainfall that triggered flash flooding across the state, Mercy Chefs deployed our mobile unit, Mercy III, to Monroe. There Mercy Chefs partnered with Evangel Assembly to serve upwards of 1500 meals daily for the local community.
Our team carried out meal service in Monroe for five days totaling more than 7,500 meals. During our time there we learned that over 9,000 water rescues were performed during the flooding - an astonishing number for an area with less than 100,000 residents. Three days into the deployment we were still finding rural residents who had still not been reached with help.
For over a year now, Mercy Chefs has been partnering with three local churches in the Dallas, Fort Worth area to host a weekly homeless outreach. Even in the midst of deployments this work continues. Our church partners rotate weekly. Each congregation puts together an outdoor church service and provides volunteers for the day while Mercy Chefs prepares a home-cooked lunch for our outdoor guests.
Sadly, homelessness is on the rise in the Dallas Metroplex, and the most rapid growth within this demographic is among children. Entire families are finding themselves living on the street or in shelters with no place to go after falling on hard times. Our team is diligently working to help the local churches meet this increasing physical and spiritual need.
Disaster season began early this year with multiple tornadoes touching down in December through February. Our team provided relief to Garland, Texas, Appomattox, Virginia and LaPlace, Louisiana in the aftermath of these storms. In each scenario thousands were left without power, homes were completely destroyed and others severely damaged. Tragically multiple residents lost their lives to these powerful tornadoes.
Our responses in Virginia and Louisiana took place simultaneously. Mercy I was deployed to Appomattox and Mercy III was stationed in LaPlace. Thousands of meals were served at each location to victims, volunteers and first responders. We were able to meet and minister to many of the victims during our meal service times and on deliveries. Our team was overwhelmed by the survival stories shared with us by people whose home were destroyed but managed to survive.
Since our founding in 2006, Mercy Chefs has served over 1.75 million meals, brought aide to twenty states and seven nations with the help of over 4,200 individual volunteers.
Our team is adept at navigating the challenges created by natural disasters and emergency situations. We are prepared to respond in the most inopportune of conditions. Our self-sustainable mobile kitchens are designed to function in areas without power or clean water.