NewsPositively Hampton Roads


Portsmouth organization helps victims in California fire devastation

Posted at 11:30 PM, Jul 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-31 06:49:16-04

REDDING, Calif. - Wild, uncontrollable fires blazing through the city of Redding, California, have destroyed homes and have taken several lives.

Gary LeBlanc, founder and president of Mercy Chefs, just touched down in Redding over the weekend. He says almost 100,000 acres have been burned and almost 40,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.

“Everywhere you go here the smoke is smoldering in the air. There’s just a haze everywhere; you can see it and feel it on your skin. You can smell it," said LeBlanc.

Mercy Chefs is a 12-year-old disaster and relief organization that was founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The organization serves restaurant-quality meals to victims who’ve lost almost everything - if not all - they own.

LeBlanc says since starting the organization, he and his team have served almost 2 million meals in more than 100 disasters around the world and across the country.

“After 12 years, of all of the people we’ve seen, it never is the same twice. It never gets to the place where it’s comfortable for me. The folks who we’re meeting here have been evacuated for a long time and not allowed to go back to their homes," said LeBlanc.

He says many of the people in the midst of all of the devastation still don’t know the status of their own homes. They’re not sure if their places have been burned, severely damaged or are even standing at all. So for him, giving back creates an amazing opportunity.

“It is a sense of hopefulness. The California fire department has been working so hard to contain this fire, but the weather can change in a heartbeat and even more of Redding could be in danger," says LeBlanc.

The founder of Mercy Chefs says they will not leave until people in California tell them their services are no longer needed.