2017-10-01 / Spotlight News

Mercy Chefs & Convoy of Hope work with local volunteers to deliver relief

By Kathy O’Flinn


Hurricane victims line up for hot meals at Master Chefs’ truck at Living Waters Church in Estero. 
Staff| staff@swspotlight.com Hurricane victims line up for hot meals at Master Chefs’ truck at Living Waters Church in Estero. Staff| staff@swspotlight.com Osvaldo Rodrigues came to Mercy Chefs for a hot meal and stayed to volunteer. “My heart is with Jesus. After this is over, I’m coming here to speak with the pastor. I’m an electrician and if he needs work done, I can help,” said a grateful Rodrigues.

Mercy Chefs, their trucks and pop-up tents visible in the parking lot outside Living Waters Church in Estero just south of Corkscrew Road, was providing hot meals twice a day to hurricane victims.

“Mercy Chefs started serving on Wednesday after the hurricane and has prepared 9,000 meals in two days, 4,500 for lunch and 4,500 for dinner,” said Angi Jeffcoat, church ministries pastor. With a walkie talkie in hand, Jeffcoat directed volunteers who were boxing meals for delivery.

Mercy Chefs is a faithbased, non-profit disaster relief organization founded in 1994. Professional chefs volunteer their time to prepare restaurant quality meals for victims, volunteers and first responders in national emergencies and natural disasters. Prior to coming to Estero, the non-profit was assisting flood victims in Texas.


Volunteers fill bags with dry goods for delivery to local destinations in need. 
Staff| staff@swspotlight.com Volunteers fill bags with dry goods for delivery to local destinations in need. Staff| staff@swspotlight.com “We anticipate up to 12,000 meals this weekend,” said Jeffcoat in the days after the storm. A large part of that number, roughly 80 percent, would be delivered to areas of greatest need throughout the area. Deliveries had already been made in Immokalee, Lehigh, Bonita and Naples with volunteers carrying supplies over their heads in chest-deep water when boats or high-water vehicles were not available.

Their team was told of a children’s home in Naples where 70 people, including children, were sheltering with one bathroom since the storm. “They have no supplies,” said Jeffcoat. A delivery was planned for the same day.

“Many victims are missing work and things are tight financially,” said Jeffcoat. “Maybe they can make the mortgage payment if they don’t have to buy their food.”

What is not visible from the street is in fact the larger part of the relief effort. Behind the church, seven Convoy of Hope tractor-trailers delivered dry goods on Tuesday after the hurricane and hundreds of volunteers were bagging the supplies for delivery. Convoy of Hope is a relief organization and disaster response is one of its missions.

Through relationships with other pastors and other churches, Living Waters Church was able to partner with Mercy Chefs and Convoy of Hope. “This all happened within 24 hours,” said Senior Pastor Ed Ivie. Local churches provided volunteers. “Maybe 1,000 in the last few days,” he estimated. “About 200 to 300 at any given time.”

The “operation center” includes three volunteers responding to requests received via social media. “We’ve been able to respond to every post for help,” said Whitney Kummer, wife of one of the church’s pastors.

Pallets stacked six feet high filled the rooms in the back of the church. Paper towels, toilet paper, snacks, protein shakes, water. As volunteers opened the warehouse-sized boxes, other volunteers dropped items in bags carried by volunteers walking down a line. Two bags were then delivered to each family in need.

Volunteer drivers opened their car doors, filled them with the bulging bags and were given instructions on their delivery destinations. The operation ran like a well-oiled machine.

“Entire families have volunteered. Some insisting they stay from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. They ask: Where can we serve?” said Jeffcoat.

According to Jeffcoat, one of the Master Chef volunteers who has been on other disaster relief missions said he had never seen a continued need this strong.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2017-10-01 digital edition