Kentucky flooding: Nonprofit serving hot meals to victims, first responders as death toll climbs

Mercy Chefs has already delivered thousands of meals in Whitesburg, Kentucky

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A Virginia-based disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization traveled to eastern Kentucky over the weekend to cook and deliver hot meals to those in need following last week's deadly flash flooding.

Mercy Chefs — founded by longtime chef Gary LeBlanc — has been serving millions of chef-prepared meals during national emergencies and natural disasters since the aftermath of Katrina in 2006. 

Mercy Chefs deliver hot meals to those in need in eastern Kentucky following devastating flooding. 

Mercy Chefs deliver hot meals to those in need in eastern Kentucky following devastating flooding.  (Mercy Chefs )

Their efforts began just days after Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear issued a state of emergency due to the severe flooding that killed dozens and displaced many others. 

After the team arrived in Whitesburg on Saturday, they heard stories of families who were thankful to be alive after nearly being swept away in the devastating floods. 

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Beshear said on Monday that the death toll climbed to 30 following the storms, flooding and mudslides that began early last week. He also noted that the death toll would likely increase as search and rescue operations continued. 

Mercy Chefs deliver hot meals to those in need in eastern Kentucky following devastating flooding. 

Mercy Chefs deliver hot meals to those in need in eastern Kentucky following devastating flooding.  (Mercy Chefs )

Some people stranded on rooftops are still waiting to be rescued, and more than 23,000 households are currently without power, Beshear said in an update about the catastrophic flooding.  

"Over the last few days, Eastern Kentucky communities faced the most destructive flooding in the state’s history," Mercy Chefs Facebook post read. "The death toll continues to rise as search and rescue teams continue their work, and now there is more rain in the forecast this week." 

Mercy Chefs deliver hot meals to those in need in eastern Kentucky following devastating flooding. 

Mercy Chefs deliver hot meals to those in need in eastern Kentucky following devastating flooding.  (Mercy Chefs )

Mercy Chefs and its band of more than 25 volunteers have already served nearly 2,000 hot meals to victims and first responders on Sunday after setting up at Letcher County Central High School.

The team plans to serve hot lunches and dinner at the high school as well as distribute meals to multiple rural locations. 

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On top of that, the nonprofit's community kitchen in Paducah, situated in the western part of the state, has already begun preparing bakery items to transport to the impacted areas as well.

Mercy Chefs deliver hot meals to those in need in eastern Kentucky following devastating flooding. 

Mercy Chefs deliver hot meals to those in need in eastern Kentucky following devastating flooding.  (Mercy Chefs )

"It’s times like this that we feel so blessed to have bases strategically placed across the country," said LeBlanc. 

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For the last 16 years, LeBlanc and his team at Mercy Chefs have traveled to more than 150 disaster zones in 29 states and 12 countries. 

Within that time, the organization, which is based out of Portsmouth, Virginia, has served upward of 20 million meals through mobile and community kitchens.