As we were in the midst of developing our plans to establish a "Beacon Of Hope" long-term kitchen in Panama City -- and before things were finalized -- I received a phone call that really shook me up.
It was from one of the pastors in Panama City with whom we developed a strong friendship during our many weeks of service in his community. We caught up on a number of things before he got to the point of his call...
"I've heard, but maybe it's a rumor..."
He could barely get the words out before he burst into tears and blurted out...
"Are y'all coming back this summer?"
I've heard the same sentiment from so many others. I've talked with pastors and politicians who have been pleading for Mercy Chefs to come back and help. And when they do, the conversation without fail turns to the children -- the more than 5,000 kids who are now homeless as a result of the Hurricane. Homelessness is always a painful reality for a city. But when thousands of children are forced into the streets, it has a devastating impact on the psyche of an entire community.
So we're going back, establishing a long-term kitchen out of one of the closed schools that we will also retrofit to house up to 80 staff and volunteers who will be coming this summer to help us serve thousands of meals every week.
It's an enormous outreach -- one of the largest long-term disaster recovery projects we have taken on. The cost will be in excess of $200,000, and I must get moving immediately. We have to have the staff in place in just three weeks. I must get the school retrofitted and ready to go before June 1.
To keep us on track, we need $20,000 THIS WEEK!
Will you partner with me to answer the calls for help that are coming from pastors and city leaders and others in this community? Please go here to partner with Mercy Chefs to bring relief to Panama City and continue other vital efforts:
As I've noted, this is the greatest gap between need and relief that I have ever seen in the aftermath of a natural disaster -- made worse by the lack of federal funds. While funds have been released by FEMA, those funds were out of the current budget and much went to undergird the insurance companies. To date, Congress has not yet authorized even ONE DOLLAR of emergency relief for Hurricane Michael (the fourth largest storm in U.S. history), as compared with $41 billion for Puerto Rico (Hurricane Maria, the third-largest storm) and $29 billion for Texas (Hurricane Harvey).
The gap is great. Will you help me fill the gap? Thank you for your prayers. And thanks in advance for your continued financial partnership!
God bless you!
Gary LeBlanc, Founder
P.S. I told my pastor friend that we are coming back this summer. But it is a huge step of faith. We simply do not have the resources in our budget for such a large and long-term project. But I must answer the call to help, and I must get moving quickly so we can start serving meals when school breaks for the summer the first week of June. Please go here to make your tax-deductible gift to Mercy Chefs: