“We can’t forget the people of Ukraine, we can’t turn our eyes, we can’t look the other way,” said Gary LeBlanc, CEO of Mercy Chefs. “It is a humanitarian catastrophe of immeasurable proportions. I cannot write a story or find words that can convey the brokenness of the people of Ukraine.”
Nearly six months into Russia’s war on Ukraine, Mercy Chefs and Operation Blessing continue to help the country and its refugees.
“Our efforts have never stopped in Ukraine,” said Mason Peggy, Humanitarian Relief Director for Operation Grace. “People are still suffering and will continue to suffer…This war is not yet complete.”
Operation Grace is based in Virginia Beach and has groups currently deployed on the Medica border between Ukraine and Poland. Now, the organization says it is moving the effort to Warsaw, Poland as the number of refugees continues to increase.
“Millions of Ukrainians crossed the border and flooded the regions with need, causing a shortage of products,” Peggy explained.
The organization says it has a supply of about days’ worth on hand at any given time, as its main priority is to get items into the hands of those in need.
As winter approaches, Operation Blessing is finding ways to collect blankets and other winter items.
“There will be a changing need for blankets as well as stoves and stove fuel,” Beggy said.
Mercy Chefs is a non-profit organization based in Portsmouth. They say they have already served about 3 million pounds of food, which is the equivalent of about 4.5 million meals.
But demand does not appear to be slowing. The organization says that orphanages are now seeing twice as many children seeking shelter.
“Every day we find a new refugee site that we help support, whether it’s a church or a company,” LeBlanc said. “We are doing everything we can to keep up with the demand, but it is overwhelming.”
Mercy Chefs is facing a shortage of truck drivers, and inflation is driving up food costs. But they still found ways to bring smiles to Ukrainian children’s faces through little things, like fresh strawberries.
“The look on the faces of the kids, the kids who have been staying in shelters and basements for months, to get those strawberries was amazing,” LeBlanc said.
Both organizations say Hampton Roads plays a key role in providing relief to the Ukrainian people.
“We honestly feel like this is where God wants us to be, because that’s where we’re going to be,” Peggy said.
“Hampton Roads can be really proud,” LeBlanc said. “It’s the people from Hampton Roads who are driving the process. These are the people in our warehouse, who run the trucks, and they buy the food. Hampton Roads is there making a tangible impact in Ukraine.”
Mercy Chefs and Operation Blessing say they plan to stay in Ukraine until 2023, but they can’t provide needed help without donations.
You can donate to Mercy Chefs here and Operation Blessing here. The money goes to relief efforts, including food and hygiene supplies.