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Credit Unions Become a Beacon of Light After Disaster Strikes

Credit Unions Become a Beacon of Light After Disaster Strikes By Gina Ragusa
Published May 31, 2011
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After a natural disaster hits leaving nothing but despair is a bright light, providing hope to many credit unions and credit union members across the country. For five years CU Aid Foundation, a division of the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) has offered lifesaving funding to those who have suffered loss due to a disaster. When the massive tornado shredded Joplin, Missouri Sunday, May 22, 2011 CU Aid activated the donation efforts the next day after speaking with the Missouri Credit Union League. To date, CU Aid has raised $50,000 for Joplin storm victims. Liz Adams, Executive Director of Missouri Credit Union Charitable Foundation, an organization supported by the Missouri Credit Union Association says working with CU Aid has been a Godsend. "Working with CU Aid has been extremely easy," she explains. "We contacted them after the Joplin storm hit and donations started piling up immediately--in fact the first round of $500 grants have already been disbursed." Adams says that her Foundation is the next step after the Red Cross and is valuable to credit union members and employees left with nothing. "We're the intermediate step that tries to help with what people have lost in the disaster. From food and clothing to shelter--we help credit union employees and members begin the rebuilding process." She says that the grant application process is straightforward. "The member or employee just needs to go to or contact their credit union. After a disaster people need cash or have lost their wallet and need to replace debit and credit cards so visiting the credit union is often a priority." Four credit unions were directly impacted by the Joplin tornado, however members were affected statewide. "A credit union in Springfield was impacted because it has SEGs in Joplin."

How CU Aid (and You) Can Help

CU Aid is fueled solely by donations--100% of those donations are directed toward the affected area. Christopher Morris, CU Aid Director of Communications says that CU Aid has provided over $3.5 million in grants to credit unions, credit union employees and members who have been struck by natural disasters since 2006. Anyone can donate to CU Aid and Morris says that typically once a disaster occurs the state credit union league will contact CU Aid to activate the fund. "Once they contact us the response is immediate. People can then donate through their local credit union or online."
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He says CU Aid and the state credit union league promote the efforts on both a local and national level. Typically CU Aid and the state credit union league will each issue a press release, which is picked up by the news media. Morris explains that CU Aid was created post-Hurricane Katrina when the National Credit Union Foundation activated its Disaster Relief Fund. Through state credit union leagues, state foundations and NCUF corporate sponsors NCUF was able to coordinate the largest disaster relief effort the movement has ever experienced. He says that donations poured into the Foundation from credit union supporters across the country, which helped hundreds of credit union employees and volunteers pay for the essentials during those initial horrific days--food, clothing, shelter and water. Katrina's impact left an indelible mark on NCUF, making way for CU Aid. Morris says that CU Aid is the embodiment of the credit union philosophy of "people helping people."

Katrina Credit Unions Never Forget

Monster storm Katrina left an unforgettable scar on hundreds of credit unions along the gulf. One Katrina impacted credit union that will never forget the kindness from NCUF is Gulf Coast Community FCU in Gulfport, Mississippi. Debbie Pidek, EVP, Communications/CCO at Gulf Coast Community FCU says, "Many of our staff lost their homes during the storm and were incredibly thankful for the outpouring of support. We will be forever grateful for the generosity shown by so many credit union employees through the National Credit Union Foundation." As a result, Gulf Coast Community FCU employees have donated to CU Aid since 2006, raising $16,000. Morris says, "The money comes directly from the employees' pockets through an employee payroll deduction program. It's the kind of effort that makes me extremely proud to be part of this organization." The credit union recently presented CU Aid with a $2,300 donation.

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