As you may know, wildfires raged across California and the Northwest the past few months and thankfully are now largely contained. However, the devastation looms large and many of the people affected were either credit union staff or members.
Anytime a large disaster happens, we reach out to state credit union associations to find out what the extent of the damage is to see if and how we can help. Why? The Foundation runs CUAid (cuaid.coop), which is the only program of its kind that enables credit union employees, volunteers, and members, as well as credit unions and credit union organizations across the U.S., to contribute directly to support other credit union people to provide disaster relief. For a primer on CUAid.coop and how it works, click here.
In this case, we reached out to the California & Nevada Credit Union Leagues as well as the Northwest Credit Union Association. The Northwest CU Association saw a need and elected to fundraise for Red Cross efforts in Oregon and Washington, which we helped spread the word about.
However, in California, we were put in touch with two credit unions hit the hardest: Mendo Lake Credit Union and Redwood Credit Union. The need for relief was evident as many staff and members were affected, but not enough to open up a widespread campaign to raise potentially a few hundred thousand dollars. Thankfully, we have some fund in our general disaster relief fund since the Foundation transfers any and all unused funds from previous campaigns to its “General Disaster Relief fund” for future disaster relief efforts (for cases like this).
For the past few weeks, we’ve been processing disaster relief grant applications for the two credit unions, with most coming from Mendo Lake Credit Union. In fact, Mr. Dries’ (pictured above) application was the very first we received. So far, the Foundation has distributed over $22,000 in aid so far to credit union members and even staff. More applications are expected.
Heartbreaking stories of homes “burned completely” down to the foundation and/or all personal belongings lost are pouring in. One application noted not just that they lost belongings, but 31 years worth of belongings. Some things you can’t put a price on.
Helping credit union people is a natural extension of the credit union philosophy of “people helping people.” Anytime I talk about CUAid, I am sure to emphasize “How many industries do you know that fundraise specifically to help each other in times of disaster?”
How can you help? The credit unions in California are also doing fundraising on their own, which you can learn more about here. If you’d like to support our efforts (and future disaster relief efforts), you can make a contribution to the Foundation’s general disaster relief fund here.
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