Critical need: AT MAX CAPACITY in Iowa now

Saturday Morning from Cedar Rapids

The situation is critical. Please help us provide thousands of meals to storm victims this weekend, and share this message with friends who may want to support our neighbors in Iowa. --Gary

This has been one of the most shocking deployments in all my history.

+ + As if a hurricane ripped through the heartland

As we were driving into Cedar Rapids, everywhere I looked it was as if a CAT 2 hurricane had ripped through America's heartland -- all with virtually no warning. The entire area has been impacted. One-hundred-year-old trees have been snapped off halfway up the trunk like twigs. Other trees are uprooted at the root ball.
Large masses of debris have been blown 50 or 100 feet away, into houses and cars. Downed power lines are everywhere -- the power is going to be out for a while. Piles of debris on every street. And miles and miles of corn, the very lifeblood of this entire region, flattened -- all in the same direction, by the 100+ mph Derecho winds that lasted more than an hour.

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Entire city WITHOUT POWER; first meals TODAY

Friday Midday from Cedar Rapids

Imagine having just 25 minutes of warning that essentially a hurricane was going to hit your city?

That's what happened here in Cedar Rapids. This derecho storm formed quite suddenly and quickly swept across the state of Iowa, giving residents here less than a half-hour's notice. With gusts as high as 145 mph, the storm lasted for more than an hour and encompassed the entire town. 

As of this morning virtually all of Cedar Rapids is still without power. Countless trees are down. Power lines are strewn across the city. No street lights are operational. Hospitals are running on generator power. And the corn crop which is the lifeblood of Iowa, has been decimated.

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Iowa update: Church roof gone; whole town wrecked

Thursday Midday (In transit to Iowa)

I'm in transit to Cedar Rapids with our team from Virginia and will arrive late this evening. Our kitchen is arriving today and a refrigerated truck of food will be on site tomorrow. Other key staff are also in transit and will be arriving throughout the day.

+ + The whole town is wrecked

The situation across Iowa is bad, especially in the Cedar Rapids area where we are establishing our base of operations. The church we are partnering with had their roof completely blown off. A trailer park nearby is a tangle of debris. The whole town is wrecked. The downtown area is a "spaghetti tangle of power lines." Our contact says they had 100mph winds for three hours. This storm was certainly the equivalent of an inland hurricane. 
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Iowa SHOCKED by storm

You may have heard about the very unexpected "derecho" winds that ravaged Iowa earlier this week. The storm and its winds stretched across hundreds of miles and flattened as much as ONE-THIRD of Iowa's crops.

+ + Hundreds of thousands without power...

The situation in Iowa is critical right now.  As many as 300,000 Iowans are without power and officials say at least 120,000 are expected not to have power for at least TWO WEEKS. As a result, much of the infrastructure isn't working. Entire communities are without an operational gas station. No restaurants are open. There's not a hotel to be found.

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NOT possible!

It's crazy. I would not have thought it was possible just a few months ago...

But right now, Mercy Chefs is providing more meals than at any time in our history.

Last week, we served and distributed over 515,000 MEALS. Not too long ago, that was more than we served over several months.

I was sure things were going to slow down at least a little in July. The pace only increased. Then August started -- the peak of summer. Surely the crush of need would subside. Not a chance. Last week was our BUSIEST week in our history. 

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Crushing reality

I never imagined that, more than four months into the COVID crisis, Mercy Chefs would still be seeing such urgent needs in so many places.

But that is the crushing reality for far too many people in America right now, and it's why I'm writing to you today.

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As we rush into August, Mercy Chefs is once again entering what is for us uncharted, unprecedented territory.

Consider all that Mercy Chefs is doing as August begins...

  • We've already had a full deployment for Hurricane Hanna in Texas and then spent this past weekend preparing for a possible second deployment along the East Coast for Isaias that fortunately never materialized. This is just the start of what experts are saying could be the "second most active hurricane season on record."

  • Meanwhile, our teams are continuing to provide hundreds of thousands of meals through our "Farmers to Families" outreaches in Oklahoma, Florida, Virginia and Puerto Rico.

  • We are also continuing to provide groceries for folks on the hard-hit island of Maui in Hawaii and are preparing thousands of individual meals at our community kitchen at our headquarters in Virginia.
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I want to do more...

It is moments like these that tear at my mind and heart.

There must be some way we can do more...

+ + Thousands of meals this weekend...

Friday through Sunday, we will serve over 5,000 meals in flooded Texas.
The need is great. Those who are volunteering with us are still without power, but they are here helping their neighbors even in the midst of their own need. Despite all the struggles with the Coronavirus and now this storm, they want to keep loving and supporting their community. Firemen and police officers and town employees are coming to get meals to deliver to people they know by name and who need help.

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FIRST LOOK at TX hurricane damage

Thursday P.M.

As I write, our team is preparing and serving meals to Texas hurricane victims. Please go here to help, and see below for details. -- Gary

The floodwaters have mostly receded, but the 17 inches of rain that hit South Texas has left many homes damaged and families struggling to pick up the pieces.

Our team is seeing the all-too familiar sites of blue tarps on houses, piles of debris in yards, and people still trying to sort out what next steps they should take.

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Hurricane meals TODAY

Our team arrived yesterday to open arms from partners we had worked with during prior outreaches.

The need in these hard-hit communities is great. Many people were already at risk and in poverty before COVID. In the past few months, the area has been ravaged by the economic fallout from the COVID crisis. Unemployment is rampant.

Then, the hurricane hit -- dropping 17 inches of rain in four hours. The flooding just multiplied the suffering and complicated the issue of local communities bearing the brunt of responding to issues created by the ongoing border catastrophe.

These communities in the Rio Grande River are urgently in need of help.
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