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Volunteers with Portsmouth-based Mercy Chefs on the ground in Romania helping Ukrainian refugees

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Posted at 9:06 PM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 13:16:20-05

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Volunteers with a local nonprofit are working to provide relief to people fleeing their homes after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Portsmouth-based nonprofit Mercy Chefs has crews on the ground in Romania, near the Ukrainian border.

The group is working to support refugee shelters in the area. They were most recently in Kentucky, providing relief to those who lost everything after deadly tornadoes ripped through the state in December.

News 3 spoke to Gary LeBlanc, the founder and CEO of Mercy Chefs, on Wednesday. He spoke about what he has heard from the refugees leaving Ukraine who still have loved ones in the country.

“Tonight, they were speaking on the phone, saying, 'It is quiet tonight; we hope to get a good night's sleep.’ While they were on the phone, there was another bombing run, and you could hear the bombs in the background going off,” LeBlanc said. “We could all hear it in the car. And it’s just very unnerving. Some of the conditions there are unspeakable."

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This is one of the shelters Mercy Chefs will be supporting with immediate food and water relief supplies. This shelter is located between Siret, Romania, and Suceava, Romania. Some of the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees will make it here before moving further west.

While on the ground, Mercy Chefs volunteers will give out food kits, bottled water and hygiene items.

More than 40,000 people have crossed the Romanian border, and the nonprofit is exploring options to help refugees at other borders in Poland and Hungary.

Click here to learn more about Mercy Chefs' response efforts and click here if you'd like to help.

Related: Ukrainian woman living in Portsmouth gives insight into war happening in her home country