Another Quake! We are DEPLOYING!

Puerto Rico was hit by yet another earthquake early this morning -- this one registering 5.2. I have never seen anything like this. The number and intensity of the earthquakes has created an ongoing terror so that thousands of people are still refusing to sleep in their own homes for fear that the structures will collapse on them in the middle of the night.

Many locals are heading to refugee shelters during the day, but the shelters close at night and the people have to fend for themselves. Since many won't or can't return to their homes, they head to a park or any open space where they sleep in tents, or just sleep in their cars. Anything to stay out of the shaking buildings.

TODAY I made the decision to DEPLOY a Mercy Chefs team to Ponce, a city on the southern coast just 20 miles from the epicenter of the largest quakes. We just secured access to a kitchen in Ponce that has not been seriously damaged by the earthquakes, which is a great blessing. There is an urgent need to provide hot meals to the surrounding villages and for the relief workers who are in the area to help with the disaster -- as well as those who are sleeping in tents and cars.

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More DISTURBING IMAGES from Puerto Rico earthquake

As of this morning more than 950 earthquakes and aftershocks have hit Puerto Rico in the past few days. Reports indicate that THREE MORE quakes that shook the ground hit earlier today. As a result, the people are still gripped with fear and uncertainty. CBS News is reporting this morning that "thousands" are still sleeping outside for fear of their homes collapsing on them during the next shaking. That's what our team member confirmed after visiting ground zero today to deliver our water unit.

And as we get a closer look at the devastation in Puerto Rico from our partners on the ground, the images are disturbing.

Historic churches damaged beyond repair.

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SHOCK in Puerto Rico!

UPDATE ON PUERTO RICO EARTHQUAKES--

I just connected with our partners in Puerto Rico who are working at the epicenter of the earthquake strike. The situation is BAD.
Many homes and structures have been destroyed including some historic churches. Damage and loss estimates continue to escalate into the billions.

Hundreds of thousands are still without power and many of the grocery stores have already been emptied. There have been so many quakes and aftershocks (80 or more) that people are still sleeping in tents because they fear returning to their homes. Gas for vehicles is hard to come by and the government is asking people not to travel. And drinking water is quickly becoming a real problem.

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Puerto Rico Earthquake

This is unbelievable.

A major earthquake hit Puerto Rico on Monday, followed up by an even more massive quake yesterday morning with SIX TIMES the force that registered 6.4 on the Richter Scale. 

The quake has impacted hundreds of thousands and experts are already estimating $3.1 billion in damages and economic losses to the island. This was the second earthquake in two days at a time when Puerto Rico is still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Maria. And to make matters worse, the center of the earthquake strike is near to where Maria came ashore two years ago.

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How this year changed me...

This year has changed me. The sheer devastation. The people I’ve met. The lives impacted by a hot meal provided by friends like you. I want to do more. I need your help. Please see below. -Gary

As we come to the end of this year, I have been reflecting on all that we’ve seen...

From tornadoes in Alabama to wildfires in California, our teams have literally been coast-to-coast responding to disasters, providing hot meals to those in need.

It became apparent that thousands were still suffering greatly on the Florida Panhandle in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, so we went back in March. And then we stayed, all summer and through the fall, serving tens of thousands of meals.

After Hurricane Dorian all but wiped out two entire islands in the Bahamas, we immediately responded. The devastation there was as bad as I have ever seen. Entire communities were leveled! More than 70,000 meals later, Mercy Chefs has played a key role in that nation’s recovery, and now we’re gearing up to greatly expand our efforts next year.

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Empty stares and hollow eyes

The hardest thing about returning during the holidays to a community hit hard by a tornado or hurricane is seeing the empty stares and hollow eyes.

During what should be a time of great joy, people whose lives have been turned upside down by a disaster are still very much living the disaster even weeks, months, and in some cases years after a storm hits.

+ + Smiles are returning...

This week in Florida as we served hot meals to families who are still recovering from Hurricane Michael, I noticed fewer of those empty stares than one year ago. We're starting to see some life come back into the folks here. Slowly, hope is being restored.

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Critical Need

I need your help today or this weekend if possible. Our team is still pressing forward with our holiday outreaches (another takes place today in Dallas and this weekend on the Florida Panhandle). But as of this morning, we are still SHORT of our goal for our Year-End Matching Challenge.

Can you help? Your support right now will help us provide hot Christmas dinners while we get ready for expanding outreaches in the coming weeks. Go here to make your best possible tax-deductible gift, and see below for more details.

God bless!

Gary LeBlanc

P.S. Remember... every dollar you give will be DOUBLED in impact by this special Year-End Matching Challenge until we reach the goal. A $30 gift doubles to $60; $50 has the impact of $100; $100 becomes $200 in impact. Go here to help:

Click here for more information from our earlier update.

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You helped make this child's Christmas!

This past weekend, I met another child who stole my heart...

Our Mercy Chefs team was in Panama City to serve the dear folks still struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Thanks to your faithful partnership, we were able to provide a beautiful Christmas dinner and bring the joy of the season to these children and their families. I served as “Santa Chef” as we gave gifts to all the children and gift cards to their parents.

It was an amazing time. There were tears of thankfulness because many of these families likely were not going to be able to have much of a celebration this Christmas.

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No holiday dinner....

Tomorrow, we're serving hot holiday meals to disaster victims in Florida who still need our help! This may be the only holiday meal they have this Christmas season. We can use your help. Go here to donate, and see below.  --Gary

It's always humbling when we hear stories like this.

This Thanksgiving, we returned to Beaumont, Texas -- a community that was hit hard by flooding this fall. Many families were forced from their homes and into shelters, and Mercy Chefs was there to provide hot meals. Many of those same folks who had sought relief in shelters and had received Mercy Chefs meals came back for our Thanksgiving outreach.

The reality is, when a community faces a disaster, it can take months and even years to recover. That's precisely the case for a husband and wife who told the local news that "without the food that [Mercy Chefs] provided us today, we probably wouldn’t have had a Thanksgiving dinner."

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This child's smile...

We are heading into the busiest two weeks of our Christmas meal outreach -- a time when Mercy Chefs wlll provide thousands of hot meals to disaster victims and needy children and families.

This weekend, we'll be in Panama City for a Holiday Celebration meal at our Beacon Of Hope kitchen that has served as our base of operations since early summer. As always, it's the children who steal my heart. I met this little girl last year at one of our post-disaster Christmas events.
 Just to put a smile on a child's face during the Christmas season makes it all worthwhile!

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