Concern for Community: Credit unions and post-disaster community recovery

This entry was posted by Tuesday, 19 April, 2011
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A vehicle sits in a tree in Tushka, Okla., Friday, April 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The recent news of storms pummeling America’s heartland—from Oklahoma to North Carolina—is nothing short of tragic. There’s no doubt credit unions will mobilize to help the affected region as they have done countless times in the past.

The National Credit Union Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund and are dedicated to helping credit unions, their employees and members recover from major disasters. 2008 saw the NCUF and the California Credit Union League provide 133,000 in grants through CU Aid to help victims of devastating wildfires that swept through California that year.

The Ohio Credit Union Foundation offers suggestions and resources to help credit unions understand how they can help their community before and after a disaster. The beginning of their document, Post-Disaster Community Recovery Plan, reminds us that Concern for Community is one of the seven co-operative principles for credit unions.

As member-owned cooperatives, credit unions look out for their members’ interests and provide a level of service not generally available at other financial institutions (“service” in the credit union world means providing individuals, families, and entire communities with economic stability through the dignity of financial empowerment).  Credit unions are different; we’re about taking care of people – in good times and in bad. This difference needs to be continually showcased.

All of this got me thinking about a story I once read in Real Stories From Credit Unions, a book CUNA published in 2001. The story describes how Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union helped their community recover from devastating wildfires in the spring of 2000. I’d like to share that story with you…

Funds for Displaced People and Animals

In the spring of 2000, wildfires in Los Alamos, New Mexico, destroyed 261 homes and burned about 47,000 acres, leaving 405 families homeless. Of the residences damaged, 216 belonged to Los Alamos Laboratory employees. In response, employees of nearby Sandia Laboratories (in Livermore and Albuquerque) shared their houses and pastures with displaced persons and animals.

Albuquerque’s Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union (SLFCU) opened an account that collected over $100,000 for fire victims. Employees at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory collected $16,000 over several days during lunch. Sandia Lab employees and staff at other labs contributed $82,000 to the SLFCU account.

‘Watching young children bring in their stuffed animals, as well as their piggy banks, to donate to the fire victims brought tears to my eyes,’ reports Christopher Jillson, SLFCU CEO. ‘I saw tellers gingerly sticking knives into the slots in the banks to crack them open and overheard more than one child say, ‘it’s okay to break it, they need it more than me.’

This story demonstrates the positive impact credit unions’ Concern for Community has after a disaster.

Our hearts and thoughts go out to those affected by the recent storms that swept through our nation’s midsection, and continue to march eastward. Take whatever solace you can in knowing credit unions will be there for you.

We’d love to highlight similar stories from around the credit union world. How has your credit union demonstrated it’s Concern for Community?

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