What we are learning about the impact of Hurricane Michael on the children of the Florida Panhandle is absolutely shocking. And the toll is resulting in mental and emotional devastation in this community, especially for the children.

+ + An epidemic of emotional trauma

As I have connected with school officials in Panama City, I have learned more about the depths of the crisis. Right now, school officials are being confronted with what amounts to an epidemic of mental and emotional trauma in the children. An alarming number of children have had to be referred for mandatory in-patient mental health evaluations. During a time when the school system would refer one or two children for in-patient care, officials are seeing DOZENS of kids who are totally unable to cope with their lives in the aftermath of the hurricane.

Hundreds more children have needed mental health interventions short of hospitalization. But so many have been hospitalized, the county has run out of beds, and kids are now being sent out of town -- often hours away where their families can't regularly visit due to the distance.

Why is this happening? Why are so many children on the Florida Panhandle experiencing mental and emotional breakdowns? Because the recovery from Hurricane Michael is so slow -- in places, seemingly nonexistent. Forty percent of the homes are still uninhabitable. Jobs are scarce. Repair work at Tyndall Air Force Base, which provides thousands of jobs, was just suspended this week because funding ran out. The school system is now projecting to lose 600 jobs if replacement funding is not secured.

As a result, the entire community is gripped in crisis, and the kids feel the pain of having their lives totally disrupted for months on end. For many of these children, "couch surfing" has become the norm -- a phrase now common in this region to describe the nightly search for a place to sleep on anybody's couch

+ + I need your help...

The situation in Panama City is as desperate as any I've seen post-disaster. Congress still hasn't approved even one dollar of emergency funding for Hurricane Michael, and existing resources are now drying up. We need to step in the gap immediately! That's why we're rushing to get our "Beacon of Hope" center operational by June 1.

But to do so, I need to make financial commitments immediately. I must get our staff on the ground by May 15 so we can prepare the kitchen and get working on converting some of the classrooms into bunkhouses. We've already had incredible demand from volunteer teams to come and use the bunkhouses. Now, I need to rally our partner organizations who can bring counselors and ministry teams to help these children and their families deal with the devastating emotional and mental toll.

This week, I met with pastors, city officials, and people on the streets who were on the verge of or in tears at the news that Mercy Chefs is returning. Now, we must make it happen!

{{recipient.first_name_or_friend}}, I have nowhere else to turn. Can I count on your help?

Local officials are battling an epidemic of emotional breakdown among kids devastated by the storm.  I must move quickly to get the facility operational so we can offer hot meals, hope and healing starting June 1. Please go here to partner with Mercy Chefs to bring relief to Panama City and continue other vital efforts:

This is a massive outreach -- one of the largest post-disaster redeployments in our history. Our "Beacon Of Hope" center will set a "table of hospitality" for disaster victims and kids left homeless by the storm. I'm confident that we will once again see God do miracles when we prepare hot meals and offer a listening ear to those in need, but I need your help.

In two weeks, we'll have our team on the ground preparing the facility. In just four weeks, we'll serve our first of thousands of meals.

Thanks in advance for your help, and God bless you!

Gary LeBlanc, Founder
Mercy Chefs

P.S. It would be a great blessing if we could raise $10,000 this weekend to help us as we rush to launch our efforts in Panama City. If the Lord has blessed you financially in a special way, this would be a great time to make a legacy gift that will help us provide a "Beacon Of Hope" to thousands of hurting kids this summer and others impacted by this epic disaster. Of course, every gift will help! Go here to donate online and for the mailing address if you prefer to donate by check. Thanks in advance and God bless!