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Seeing Mercy Chefs in Action After Hurricane Laura Was a True Inspiration

It’s one thing to hear stories about good people helping others in the midst of tragedy.

It’s another to see it in person.

In late August, Hurricane Laura stormed through Louisiana and devastated Lake Charles, a city in the southwest part of the state. It was one of largest hurricanes to ever hit Louisiana and overall caused billions of dollars in damage and took the lives of dozens of people. The storm impacted my wife’s family in Glenmora, 70 miles to the northeast of Lake Charles, and we headed down early in September to help them recover. It was heart-breaking to see them lose sentimental items – the kind of things you can’t replace with a quick run to the store.

When we were done, we knew we were too close to Lake Charles to not come see Mercy Chefs in action.

A nonprofit disaster relief organization that provides cooked meals for those impacted by tragedy, Mercy Chefs was set up in the parking lot of a local church. There had to be at least 50 people there volunteering – one woman I talked with had driven 500 miles from Panama City, Florida, to help. It was the third straight disaster relief effort Mercy Chefs had been deployed to without a break to return home.

The Mercy Chefs team prepared meals, and those who were impacted by Hurricane Laura drove through a pick-up line due to social distancing protocols from COVID-19. It was a long line – car after car after car. By the time the Mercy Chefs team was done and had to rush off to their next emergency, they had provided 93,000 hot meals and 38,000 bags of groceries to the people in the Lake Charles area.

With the nightly news constantly overflowing with negative stories, it was truly inspiring to see humanity at its best. Neighbors helping neighbors. Hands reaching out to help.

From a personal standpoint, it was nice to see our equipment being used in such a way, too. One man stirred food in a Groen Braising Pan – something he must have been doing for hours and hours to help feed those hurting people – and did so with a genuine smile on his face. That’s part of the reason why Unified Brands is so proud to be a corporate sponsor of Mercy Chefs. They truly have a servant’s heart to help those impacted from disasters.

I suggest you read more about Mercy Chefs, but the organization was born in 2006 when Founder and President Gary LeBlanc wanted to help his hometown of New Orleans recover after Hurricane Katrina. In the past 16 years, the staff has grown from four employees to nearly 30 and has served millions of meals. Because they cook from-scratch, they would love monetary donations. You can make a 100% tax deductible donation here, or if you’re interested in volunteering you can learn more here.

It’s funny how much difference a little perspective makes. When we were making that drive from our home outside of Jackson, Mississippi, to those impacted by Hurricane Laura, my wife and I talked about the rough shape of our country in terms of how we treat each other. After seeing Mercy Chefs do what they do best, the drive back home was a different tune.

We felt inspired by their goodness, and I was proud that our equipment could play a small role in helping the Mercy Chefs team bring some light into the world.


Clay Thames
Product Line Director – Cooking & Warewash

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