We are facing a post-hurricane humanitarian crisis on the Florida Panhandle unlike anything I have ever seen. This crisis has left THOUSANDS homeless at a time when key FEMA aid is shutting down -- making matters even worse.
In the past few weeks, I have been in close contact with city officials there regarding the situation. Hurricane Michael was the fourth largest storm in U.S. history -- but has received less aid than any hurricane that Mercy Chefs has ever seen. To exacerbate things, we just received word that FEMA recently cut funding for temporary housing. With 40% of all buildings in Panama City still uninhabitable and funds drying up, thousands are being forced to the streets. Reports indicate at least 5,500 children are now homeless, and with summer coming, they will be without access to regular meals. (Bay County only reported 858 homeless students prior to the hurricane.)
What has happened in Panama City and the Florida Panhandle is the greatest gap between need and relief that I have seen in the history of Mercy Chefs. It is tragic, and the victims are good people -- families and children who are suffering, many living on the streets or in tent cities. But God is making a way...
Panama City officials have been asking Mercy Chefs to return this summer to provide meals for those displaced by Hurricane Michael. But we needed a permanent base of operations. To help make this happen, the city is giving us access to one of the shut down schools -- with a complete kitchen -- as our base. From this base, Mercy Chefs will be able to serve between 5,000 and 15,000 meals EVERY WEEK.
But with this opportunity comes a great challenge. First, the logistics. We have to retrofit the kitchen and the building to our needs. First, there are some repairs that must be done. Second, we must provide our own temporary housing for our staff and volunteers One of the great challenges is that with so many buildings destroyed, there simply are not affordable options to house our own team! So our first visiting mission team will be constructing bunks and preparing the school facility to house up to 80 mission workers.
The other challenge is a financial one. We are projecting that the total cost of this summer program will exceed $200,000. We are believing God that He will provide partners and resources to make this happen. We simply cannot do it all, but we have to do all we can. And to do so, I must get started immediately!
Specifically, we need $25,000 right away to get this vision for a Mercy Chefs Beacon Of Hope moving so we can meet the June 1 deadline. These funds will help get us started on the retrofit of the school facility.
This is the greatest relief challenge I have ever seen. The gap between need and relief is a massive chasm! I want to help fill the gap this summer by providing hot meals to children forced into homelessness. Please go here to partner with Mercy Chefs to bring relief to a base of hope in Panama City and continue other vital efforts:
I have much more to share with you on this amazing opportunity that has opened for Mercy Chefs to meet the ongoing need on the Florida Panhandle. For now, please pray. Pray for our team. Pray for wisdom and guidance and favor and direction. Pray for those still suffering. And as the Lord leads, please help us with this important effort.
Thank you for partnering with us, and God bless you!
Gary LeBlanc, Founder
P.S. City officials are giving us one of the shut-down schools to utilize and establish a Mercy Chefs base of hope to feed children and families who have been forced to the streets or into tent communities. But 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: