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Shaw Airmen support flood-stricken communities

An Airman assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing rips out the drywall of a home affected by the flooding in Sumter, S.C., Oct. 17, 2015. Airmen across Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., volunteered with multiple organizations in the Sumter community to assist in the disaster relief efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Diana M. Cossaboom)

An Airman assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing rips out the drywall of a home affected by the flooding in Sumter, S.C., Oct. 17, 2015. Airmen across Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., volunteered with multiple organizations in the Sumter community to assist in the disaster relief efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Diana M. Cossaboom)

Two 20th Civil Engineer Squadron Airmen (left) and a disaster relief volunteer tear up wood floors at a home affected by the flooding in Sumter, S.C., Oct. 19, 2015. Organizations on Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., created multiple groups of more than 85 volunteers to assist in the disaster relief efforts for the Sumter community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Diana M. Cossaboom)

Two 20th Civil Engineer Squadron Airmen (left) and a disaster relief volunteer tear up wood floors at a home affected by the flooding in Sumter, S.C., Oct. 19, 2015. Organizations on Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., created multiple groups of more than 85 volunteers to assist in the disaster relief efforts for the Sumter community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Diana M. Cossaboom)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFNS) -- When Hurricane Joaquin moved near the East Coast in early October, the storm dumped record rainfall on South Carolina for six days, causing severe flooding across the state.

In response, Shaw Air Force Base organizations assisted local communities, providing disaster relief to those affected by the flooding.

More than 7,000 people in Sumter have applied for aid through the Federal Emergency Management Agency after at least 600 homes were devastated by the flooding, with over 250 of them in need of extensive repairs, according to Sumter United Ministries.

"This is our chance as Airmen to give back to the Sumter community," said Senior Master Sgt. Jacob Peeterse, the 20th Component Maintenance Squadron maintenance superintendent. "Sumter does wonderful things for us here on base and the chance to give back to those who are in need cannot be understated."

Shaw organizations are working with multiple disaster relief groups including Sumter United Ministries, American Red Cross, and the Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Recovery teams.

"We recognized there was a need for help in our community," said Staff Sgt. Carlos Ortiz Castillo, a 20th Civil Engineer Squadron heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technician. "(We) wanted to reach out and do something for the community and the people who have lost their belongings and give a little hope back to them to assure them that we are here to help."

The Air Force Sergeant's Association and 20th CES HVAC shop provided about 85 Airmen who pitched in more than 750 hours clearing out mold to help begin renovations of homes in the Sumter community.

The Airmen who volunteered did mostly demolition work, removing any part of the house that could harbor mold. The main focus was to leave the homes mold free and ready to re-build, Peeterse said.

Airmen assigned to Shaw AFB continue to provide assistance to the affected families in what will possibly be an extended effort to return their devastated houses to homes.

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