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Jewish Clean-Up Volunteers Feel Kinship To N. Mpls.

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(credit: CBS) Reg Chapman
Reg Chapman joined WCCO-TV in May of 2009. He came to WCCO fr...
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By Reg Chapman, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It has been one week since tornadoes turned some of our neighbor’s lives upside down. City officials say in north Minneapolis the tornado damaged more than 3,000 homes and businesses. Of those damaged, 150 houses were labeled “unlivable.”

It’s estimated the damage totals over $16 million. The Red Cross says it has hosted more than 500 people in shelters and served up more than 6500 meals.

On Sunday, the city of Minneapolis made a public “thank you” to everyone who’s pitched in. Seven electronic billboards are up around the city.

The effort to help isn’t stopping one week after the storm. The work has been non-stop in north Minneapolis. One tree limb at a time, volunteers continue to clear debris from the hardest hit areas of the community.

“Nechama means comfort in Hebrew and it’s our task to begin to give people a semblance of comfort when they survive a horrendous, horrific disaster like this,” said Jim Stein.

Stein is the executive director of an organization dedicated to helping people in their darkest hour. Stein said they’re not here for show.

Many who have dedicated hours of their time to help have ties to this section of Minneapolis — ties that span generations.

“Originally, this was a Jewish neighborhood. All of north Minneapolis was filled with immigrant Jews who came here and settled in this part of town and over the years they moved out and other people moved in. But this is a very special area. We have a real kinship with this area,” said Stein.

For the young, not only do they see where their grandparents and parents once lived, they also get a lesson in how a little help goes a long way.

“I feel that this place really needs a lot of help and it’s hard to see all of the destruction but I feel that I am really, like, you can’t do the whole thing but you can help out a little bit and if enough people do it, you can make a big difference,” said Shayan Gilbert Burke, a youth volunteer.

“You know, it’s one person at a time, one house at a time. I was just working on a yard with some folks and all they wanted is the yard but when we were done he came out and felt better about his life and about the potential for tomorrow. That’s what makes a difference,” said Rabbi Lynn Liberman.

Nechama began in Minneapolis more than 15 years ago. They send volunteers, Jewish and non-Jewish,  and supplies to disasters across the country.

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