On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria devastating Puerto Rico, Mercy Chefs is returning to the U.S. territory, this time to aid the victims, volunteers and first responders of Hurricane Fiona.
Virginia-based Mercy Chefs has a longstanding history of providing relief in Puerto Rico. The nonprofit responded for months after Hurricane Maria, establishing three community kitchens on the island, installing water purification units and generators and distributing other desperately needed supplies.
The nonprofit returns to Puerto Rico today and will provide hot meals and clean water to those impacted by the widespread power outages and catastrophic devastation caused by Hurricane Fiona. In addition to meals and bottled water, Mercy Chefs will bring two mobile water purification units. Each unit produces 300 gallons of clean water per hour and will address the urgent need for more drinkable water.
“Our deployment to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria five years ago was one of the longest in our 16 years of feeding people in times of disaster,” said Gary LeBlanc, founder and CEO of Mercy Chefs. “We are heartbroken to see the continued devastation to these communities, and we’re thankful for the opportunity to serve our dear friends on the island alongside our longtime volunteers and Puerto Rico residents Wanda and Edgard Agosto.”
After Hurricane Maria, Mercy Chefs created community kitchens in Guaynabo, Manati and Dorado and operated two water purification units throughout the island. It also purchased water bladders to enable communities to store clean water and a pickup truck that went community to community to fill the bladders with clean water.
By December of 2017, Mercy Chefs was providing bug spray, mosquito nets and generators for people who needed power for insulin refrigeration and oxygen units. Generators also were provided to multiple villages to provide light in a time of darkness. In Dorado, Mercy Chefs created a bunk house complete with showers for men and women that houses 40 people at a time – the bunk house is still operating today. More generators and solar panels to aid recovery were delivered in March and July of 2018.
Mercy Chefs has also responded to other needs in Puerto Rico in recent years, including serving the community of Ponce following earthquakes and distributing groceries throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Mercy Chefs works closely in Puerto Rico with church partner Iglesia Nuevo Testamento.
Mercy Chefs has served more than 20 million meals since its founding in 2006 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when LeBlanc went to New Orleans to volunteer and realized disaster relief could be done better.
Mercy Chefs is a 501c3 founded in 2006 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The organization exists to provide professionally prepared, restaurant-quality meals to victims, volunteers and first responders in natural disasters and national emergencies and partners with existing ministries with food service in underserved communities around the country. Since its founding, Mercy Chefs has served over 20 million meals. In 2020, Mercy Chefs founder Gary LeBlanc was recognized by Southern Living Magazine as a “Hometown Hero,” and Mercy Chefs was named the 2020 Small Business of the Year in the nonprofit category by Inside Business and the Hampton Roads Chamber. In 2015, it received both the Virginia Governor’s Volunteerism Award and the Hampton Roads Volunteer Achievement Award for its service. For more information, visit MercyChefs.com.