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.

Upon my arrival, I spoke with local emergency management officials here. They were prepared for a flood, or a blizzard, or a tornado. But they've never seen anything like this: hurricane-force winds extending across dozens of counties. Both the nature and the scope of this disaster has shaken even the emergency workers.

+ + At MAX capacity by this afternoon...

Yesterday, we served our first meals and it was a rugged day. Everything is a struggle because so much of the local infrastructure has been decimated. Mercy Chefs is having to create our very own supply chain because we can't get the food and supplies we need locally. Even chicken is in short supply. We've leased trucks and hired drivers just to get us what we need. My team is pushing as hard and as fast as possible because the need is that urgent.

By this afternoon, we will be at maximum capacity with our mobile kitchen, our smoker, multiple chefs, support staff and volunteers. Mercy Chefs will prepare THOUSANDS of meals this weekend alone -- I'm expecting tens of thousands in the coming days.

Once again, I'm turning to our core of friends and supporters. Mercy Chefs was the first provider of relief meals to arrive. We'll be doing the largest volume. We'll undoubtedly stay the longest. Simply put, I need the help of EVERY Mercy Chefs partner on this one!

Despite all the challenges, our team was able to prepare and serve a beautiful meal last night -- delicious chicken pot pie, fresh fruit salad with strawberries and cherries, a lettuce salad, and a biscuit. So often in the midst of devastating disasters, people are grateful to receive a bottle of water, some chips or a snack. When you hand them a real, chef-quality, professionally prepared meal, their faces light up. For that moment, it's as if the weight of the world has been lifted.

This weekend is critical. The power has been out now since Monday. Whatever families were able to save from their refrigerators is gone now. They have much work to do to clear yards or salvage their homes but there are little if any local supplies of food.

Mercy Chefs is here. We'll be preparing and delivering thousands of meals today. Please help. And please pray for America's heartland. It seems the national media has totally missed this tragedy. It's up to you and me to be their lifeline.

God bless.

Gary LeBlanc, Mercy Chefs

P.S. One woman from a local church who is volunteering with us was thanking us for coming. My wife, Ann, asked her if her home had been damaged. She shared that one of the walls of her house had been blown down, exposing their entire home to the elements. She then said how the power outage was letting them see more stars at night as she kept serving her neighbors. For us, her willingness to help others in the midst of her own tragedy was almost too much to take.

This is why we're here. This is why Mercy Chefs exists. Please help, and thanks in advance.

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