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Vets join Massachusetts rebuilding effort

A national disaster relief organization led by veterans is stepping up to help Revere get back on its feet -- volunteering to assist homeowners whose insurance won't cover all the costs to clear up debris -- nearly a week after a tornado tore through the city.

Team Rubicon yesterday launched Operation Midnight Ride as members outfitted with safety vests and chainsaws took to fallen trees still sitting in residents' backyards.

"It was really important for us to come out and help," said Dana Braverman of Team Rubicon. "We're leveraging the core skills the guys have learned on the job: leadership, making sense of chaos."

Homeowner Evan Smith said it meant a lot that people are going out of their way to help.

"I was going to have to pay out of pocket," Smith said. "It definitely gives you some motivation (to help out others)."

His home sustained only minor damage in the EF2 twister, but his backyard was covered with branches and leaves from his and his neighbor's yards.

Team Rubicon plans to help clean up about 10 properties that have fallen trees yesterday and today. The nonprofit was founded in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and now has 16,000 members. They have volunteered in 60 disasters, including Superstorm Sandy, and are currently also helping out with tornado relief efforts in East Tennessee and wildfire cleanup efforts in Washington state.

"The vet population, they get out and want to continue to serve and have a sense of purpose and camaraderie," said Paul Briggs, an Army veteran.

Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo said the response from the community in the wake of the tornado has been overwhelming.

"That's been one of the most gratifying things to me that's come out of the whole situation," Rizzo said. "To have these groups in the city and to have the neighbors helping each other has made a very difficult situation much better than it could have been."

A tornado relief fund set up by the city has already raised more than $100,000.

Volunteers and the relief fund likely are the only ways residents will get help since the storm damage isn't expected to reach the threshold for federal or state aid and insurance.

Smith said his insurance company considered the tornado "wind and storm" damage, with a deductible much higher than the cost of the work.

"Insurance didn't do anything," Smith said. "I haven't heard from one person whose insurance is doing anything."

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