Credit Unions and NWCUF Provide Disaster Relief for Members and Employees

5/28/2021

Over the past year, the Northwest faced extreme and unprecedented weather that caused widespread damage to homes and property.

True to their “People Helping People” philosophy, credit unions responded quickly, dedicating financial support and other resources to assist their members and communities through these crises. The Northwest Credit Union Foundation joined in the effort by activating its Disaster Relief Fund, which provided relief dollars to credit union employees and volunteers who were impacted.

Last September, a series of wildfires ravaged the region, 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.

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.

The NWCUF disaster relief 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.

Just a few short months after the vast destruction of the wildfires, winter brought a severe ice storm to Oregon that led to the most widespread power outage in the state’s recorded history.

The frigid weather brought uncharacteristically heavy snowfall and ice, causing trees to collapse and inflict damage on thousands of power lines and transformers. More than 330,000 Oregonians were left in the dark for days — some even went weeks without electricity, heat, running water, internet, and cell service.

Credit unions in the region responded quickly to help members affected by the devastation. Within a matter of days, the Maps Credit Union Community Foundation distributed $40,000 to more than 800 credit union members who lost all of their perishable food during the outage. Other credit unions provided similar aid.

The Northwest Credit Union Foundation once again activated its Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to impacted credit union employees and board members — several suffered significant damage to their homes and loss of perishable food.

“Coming on the heels of the devastating wildfires that tore through the Northwest last September, this storm was another heavy blow for Oregonians,” said Sharee Adkins, NWCUF Executive Director. “We are  humbled to be able to help our credit union family with critical funds contributed by Northwest credit unions, partners, and individual donors.”

Brian Fassett, Senior Training Specialist/LMS Administrator at Advantis Credit Union, said his family didn’t have power for eight days and internet access for more than two weeks, affecting his ability to work from home, and his daughters’ virtual learning activities.

While the power outage was certainly uncomfortable and inconvenient, Fassett said the most devastating consequences of the storm was all the damage inflicted on his property.

“We have almost 20 trees on our property, so there is lots of clean-up to do, and we will need to hire an arborist to do some of the work,” he explained. “We had one tree fall across our back yard and break two of our fences. We had a branch fall through our deck, and a branch fell and damaged our grill. Branches fell and broke the roof of our chicken run.”

Fassett applied for financial assistance through the Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund.

“I am so grateful we received funds from NWCUF. This allowed us to immediately restock our freezers and fridge once the power came back. I was also able to replace the chicken run rook, and fix both back yard fences myself. I got a chainsaw and cut up the tree myself, as that was a lot cheaper than hiring someone else to do it. I am still working on cleaning up all the debris, and some of the funds will go to paying an arborist for tree work I can’t do.”

Maps Community Foundation Executive Director, Kim Hanson, said she feels immense gratitude for the immediate support NWCUF provided to Maps employees affected by the ice storm.

“The Disaster Relief Fund helped them to restock food supplies, clean up tree debris, and repair structural damage. What an incredible feeling to have our credit union community collectively lift us up during this challenging time.”

In total, NWCUF provided over $135,000 in disaster relief funds to support recovery from the wildfires and ice storm to more than 150 employees from credit unions across the Northwest.

As the impact from the wildfires and ice storms unfolded, the Foundation saw generous support come in from credit unions, business partners, and individual donors – contributing over $100,000 to the Disaster Relief Fund. NWCUF is grateful for the widespread support that allows us to be ready to support our Northwest communities whenever disaster strikes.