PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Mercy Chefs is in Mayfield, Kentucky after deadly tornadoes ripped throughout the southern United States.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said tornadoes in the state killed at least 70 people, and he fears the final death toll will exceed 100.
The Portsmouth-based disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization serves chef-prepared meals to victims and first responders in emergencies and natural disasters.
“Our team is heartbroken over this tremendous loss of life and devastation that has affected so many communities,” said Gary LeBlanc, founder and CEO of Mercy Chefs. “In years of doing disaster relief work, the destruction never becomes any less shocking. Our hope is that our meals will bring comfort to the Mayfield community during this time of tragedy.”
They served their first meals Saturday evening at His House Ministries located. They have nearly two dozen core members, chefs and volunteers from around the country, as well as local volunteers, helping make meals.
As of Sunday evening, the group has made about 2,000 meals.
“This has been the most devastating tornado event in our state’s history,” Beshear said at a news conference Saturday morning.
Mercy Chefs completed their holiday outreach for recovering flood victims in Waverly, Tennessee Saturday afternoon.
"Please pray for logistics to fall into place for our team as we travel, for the necessary grocery supplies to be readily available, and most of all for those affected, across four states, by this tornado. We are heartbroken seeing such devastation. We thank you for your support as we deploy to feed body and soul," Mercy Chefs said on Facebook.
Sunday evening, News 3 talked with Gary LeBlanc, Founder & CEO of Mercy Chefs. LeBlanc is in Kentucky helping with the group's efforts.
"These folks are going to face a very difficult time, and we hope that by providing beautiful, hot, hand-crafted meals, we're able to provide a little comfort and actually a little hope for them in this very difficult time," LeBlanc told News 3.
LeBlanc said he's seen a lot of devastation around the country in the 15 years Mercy Chefs has been operating, but what happened in Kentucky, is as bad as he has ever seen.
"It's one of those single things that a single picture or a moment looking around, your brain just can't process what you're seeing. It's utter and complete devastation," he said. "There's a law office in town, and the books on the shelf are still perfectly in place, yet the front of the building is gone, and everything is a pile of rubble."
"These are very strong, hearty people, but the time of year has made this even worse for them," LeBlanc added. "I can't imagine losing my home, and losing a family member, and trying to get through Christmas."
LeBlanc said, by next weekend, they're expecting to make more than 25,000 meals for folks in the area. He added they'll stay in the area as long as they're needed.
Mercy Chefs relies on donations to help with response efforts.
Click here for more information on how you can contribute to help their efforts in Kentucky.