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'Mercy Chefs' travels to assist with tornado relief efforts in Kentucky

“It’s our desire that we bring hope in the form of a meal," the nonprofit's founder & CEO told 13News Now on Saturday.

MAYFIELD, Ky. — Storms and tornadoes ripped through several parts of the Central and Southern U.S. in the overnight hours from Friday into Saturday. 

Kentucky was especially hit hard. Dozens are feared dead, as emergency responders work to search the rubble.

People from Hampton Roads are already in Southwestern Kentucky to assist with relief efforts. 

Portsmouth, Virginia-based nonprofit organization Mercy Chefs, with the mission of "feeding body and soul," wasted no time in their efforts to help tornado victims.

"This is as bad as we've seen in a very long time," said Head Chef, Founder & CEO Gary LeBlanc.

Just hours after completing holiday outreach to flood victims in Middle Tennessee, LeBlanc and his team arrived in the hard-hit city of Mayfield, Kentucky.

The tornado aftermath is described as even more tragic, given that Christmas is weeks away.

"We know as we go into Kentucky and all in the surrounding states, this is going to be a very hard Christmas for people. They're out of their homes. They've lost all their possessions and for just a horrendous amount of folks, they've lost loved ones," said LeBlanc. 

RELATED: Kentucky governor: Tornado on ground for more than 200 miles

Upon arrival Saturday evening, the organization also described "so many broken hearts and home."

"We're going to go in to try and provide some hope, some comfort and just a little bit of compassion in the midst of a really horrible situation," said LeBlanc.

The nonprofit had geared up to feed first responders as early as Saturday night, which they did - sending out an update saying: "The organization began serving meals to victims, volunteers and first responders tonight from His House Ministries located at 1250 KY-303, Mayfield, KY."  

Credit: Mercy Chefs
Mercy Chefs volunteers provide meals to victims, volunteers and first responders in Mayfield, KY

The plan is to also distribute hot meals to the community, beginning Sunday.

LeBlanc told 13News Now that Mercy Chefs made a commitment to stay until next weekend, but he also said they'll stay in Mayfield as long as needed.

We also reached out to other teams with local ties like Virginia Task Force 2, the Red Cross and Operation Blessing. They either have not been called or are waiting on damage assessment, but they all stand ready to help as needed.

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