PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — One of the groups that has helped the Panhandle the most since Hurricane Michael is Mercy Chefs and the holidays are no exception.
The non-profit held its holiday celebration at the Beacon of Hope Center at Oscar Patterson Elementary on Sunday.
All were welcomed to enjoy a hot meal and take their minds off of any stresses the hurricane or the holidays may have caused.
Mercy Chefs helped out with the Christmas burden, handing out thousands of dollars in gift cards and gave small presents to the children in attendance.
Mercy Chefs President and founder, Gary LaBlanc says providing a meal like this helps people heal. “People heal when they’re together. neighbors helping neighbors are the best way, so for us to come and set a table and invite the community in and folks get to see the people that live around them or the kids get to see people they go to school within a little different environment is where we can see the healing begin to take place.”
“We’re starting to see some life come back into folks this year. Last year at Christmas, there were still a lot of empty stares and hollow eyes and we’re seeing people this year just beginning to come back. We know there’s so much more work to be done down here in Bay County, that’s why we’re still here, but we’re starting to see those signs of recovery and people being restored,” he added.
Mercy Chefs plans to stay through at least next school year and is working on plans provide meals for families in the summer,
“Mercy Chefs has never stayed this long in a place but we can’t find a clear path in our hearts to leave. We’ve fallen in love with the people and they’ve been so generous and welcoming to us,” LeBlanc said.