11/13/2020 Credit unions are founded on the “People Helping People” philosophy. That core principle was never more apparent than it was this year, as…Read more »
Northwest Credit Unions, Partners, and Individuals Raise $100,000 Through NWCUF Disaster Relief Program
A series of wildfires ravaged the Northwest earlier this month, burning thousands of acres, taking several lives and injuring many others, destroying homes, and displacing hundreds. Immediately, credit unions jumped into action to help their members and employees impacted by the devastation, even as they grappled with their own evacuations, branch closures, and property damage.
When the Northwest Credit Union Foundation activated its disaster relief program on Sept. 14, dozens of credit unions, business partners, and individual donors stepped up within a matter of hours to contribute over $100,000 to the funds — and counting. The Foundation grants offer additional aid to credit union people, including board members, employees, and volunteers facing financial hardship due to the fires.
“It’s incredible to see the credit union family come together, time and time again, to help each other when disaster strikes,” said Sharee Adkins, NWCUF Executive Director. “The response we’ve seen in the past few days has been unbelievable, and we’re so humbled to be able to convene credit unions in this way and direct these funds to those that need them most.”
Clackamas Federal Credit Union, based in Milwaukie, Oregon, was one of several credit unions directly in the line of fire. At the peak of the disaster, Clackamas President and CEO, Aaron Goff, said the credit union had 32 employees and volunteers that had been evacuated from their homes. While some had family in nearby areas they could stay with temporarily, many didn’t — their only option was to stay at a hotel.
“One family has been in a hotel for at least a week now,” Goff said. “They happen to both work for us. She’s nine months pregnant, and they have a toddler with them. So that’s a lot of hotel costs and restaurant meals since they have no way of cooking food. That’s really what this has been about — helping people get settled and have a roof over their heads.”
The NWCUF grants helped Clackamas cover these unavoidable and costly expenses for their employees.
“We’re thankful and grateful for the assistance we’ve gotten. I know our employees are — they really needed help,” said Goff.
Displaced employees at Fibre Federal Credit Union, based in Longview, Washington, received emergency funds from the credit union, and several also applied for NWCUF grants to reconcile the costs that blindsided them.
“We were in and out of power for three-plus days and lost a lot of food in our fridge,” said Dolores Brown, Member Services Representative. Luckily, we were put up by a coworker, so we didn’t have to stay in a hotel, but the cost of gas when driving back and forth was an expense.”
For Brown, the funds will provide some much-needed relief after what has been nothing short of a nightmare.
“Even though I did not lose my house, just the stress of being told, ‘You have to get out of here’ and ‘Be prepared to go’ … and then the air quality was so bad — it was a tough week,” she said.
Alisha Oliver, Vice President of Member Service at NW Preferred Credit Union, based in Tigard, Oregon, said that several employees at the Stayton branch were evacuated around 1 a.m. on Sept. 8 and forced to leave in the middle of the night. One employee evacuated a toddler, nine puppies, a dog, and a cat. Another evacuated with their two teenagers but had to leave their spouse behind, who was fighting the fire on the frontlines.
“While we left our homes fearing their loss, I am relieved to say that all employees’ homes survived the fire,” said Oliver. “Although,” she adds, “Now we are assessing the smoke damage and facing the cleanup process.”
Oliver explained that employees are using the Foundation grants to clean up smoke and ash damage, help meet their insurance deductibles, offset the expenses of evacuation travel, feed themselves and their families, and help with the cost of repurchasing some basic items that had been left at home.
“Our employees are so thankful for the credit union family and the peace of mind the grants have provided. It is humbling to be on the receiving end of ‘People Helping People.’”
The NWCUF expresses its sincere gratitude to all who have contributed to its Disaster Relief Fund — it’s a powerful demonstration of the cooperative spirit credit unions are known for. Visit https://nwcuf.org/disaster-relief-donors/ for a full list of generous donors.
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Editor’s Note: NWCUF applications for relief assistance are being accepted here. Credit union leadership may apply on behalf of their impacted team members. Contributions made through the Foundation’s website will directly assist those impacted by wildfires in the Northwest.