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Minnesota-based disaster relief group heading to hurricane zone

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Residents wade through deep floodwater to retrieve belongings
Residents wade through deep floodwater to retrieve belongings from the Trent Court public housing apartments after the Neuse River went over its banks during Hurricane Florence September 13, 2018 in New Bern, United States. Coastal cities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under evacuation orders as the Category 2 hurricane approaches the United States.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Among the Minnesotans headed for the southeastern U.S. this week to assist in the response to Hurricane Florence will be a Burnsville-based Jewish relief group that specializes in helping people save their homes after a disaster.

Executive director David Kaplan said Nechama is called into action after disasters all over the country. He said about seven people from Minnesota are heading to Georgia on Friday to prepare for volunteers to step in after the storm.

"We go in and we remove all the damage debris and all the damaged materials in people's homes and we gut the homes down to the studs to make sure that the homes don't have mold afterwards; they can dry out," he said. "We also do chainsaw teams. So we take down trees that fall down, we take down trees that need to come down. Then we remove all the debris from people's households."

Kaplan said the group relies on volunteers from all faiths to get its work done, and relies on donations from the Jewish community and beyond to fund its travel, equipment and recovery expenses. 

"We have church groups that come down with us. We have groups that come from mosques. We have college students. We have high school students. We have folks that just show up and are looking for something to do, and they connect with us and we put them to work," he said.

Kaplan said the work focuses on low-income and at-risk communities that typically can't afford the thousands of dollars it takes to gut many homes.

Nechama has been around since 1993. Kaplan said the group going to Georgia will help set up for the dozens of additional volunteers and a small fleet of vehicles Nechama brings to disaster zones.