Anniversary of Hurricane Disasters Helps NCUF Reflect on Lessons Learned, Help Given, Proactive Plans for Future Calamities
WASHINGTON -- This week, a number of events will mark the Aug. 29 anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and other major storms that struck the Gulf Coast region last year forever charting the uncertainty of rebuilding in several states.
Katrina alone is estimated to have caused more than $80 billion worth of damage and the death of 1,836 people with an estimated 705 people still missing since the storm slammed into several states late last summer. In April, President Bush sought $105 billion for repairs and reconstruction in the region, but critics contend that rebuilding the region, particularly New Orleans, has been slow and mired in red tape.
Credit unions were among the many that experienced devastating damage to facilities and member displacement. Smaller credit unions had to link up with larger ones to survive, many also joined shared ATM networks to help members gain access to accounts. In all, the movement--leagues, trade groups, foundations, regulators, and many vendors--pulled together to get credit unions impacted by the hurricanes back to a reasonably operational state.
One of those entities in the midst of it was the National Credit Union Foundation.
Soon after Katrina made landfall, NCUF activated its Disaster Relief Fund. With participation from every level of the credit union community, this national relief campaign would make credit union history. State credit union leagues, state foundations, individual credit unions, and NCUF corporate sponsors worked with NCUF to coordinate the largest disaster relief effort the movement has ever seen.
Credit union supporters across America answered with a record outpouring of donations. In less than a year, the credit union community donated more than $3.3 million to the NCUF Disaster Relief Fund--a record for the credit union movement. NCUF granted $3.4 million in disaster relief grants. Even after meeting emergency needs, the NCUF recognized that credit union employees continued to need assistance of their own. They were using every ounce of energy to try to recover their homes, replace lost property, and rebuild their lives. The NCUF held its first-ever online auction on www.ncuf.coop, followed by a live auction at CUNA's Future Forum. "We had 109 employees and volunteers who lost their homes and all they had, or who sustained major damage to their property," said Scotty Brown, president/CEO of Kessler FCU in Bilxoxi, Miss. "[NCUF's] generosity and acts of kindness will always be a cherished moment for them." Thanks to donors' generosity, credit unions were able to help employees deal with losses far beyond Katrina's aftermath. The first wave of donations helped hundreds of credit union employees and volunteers pay for emergency shelter, food, water, and many other essentials they needed to survive each day. "The outpouring of aid from the credit union community has been one of the few bright spots in these darkest of times," wrote Christopher S. Maurer, CEO of UNO FCU in New Orleans, in one of hundreds of thank-you notes received by NCUF. "Because of this aid, my credit union has not lost a single employee as a result of the storm. Organizations like yours make me proud to be part of the credit union movement."
Looking ahead, NCUF has partnered with state CU foundations to develop a new online disaster relief system to channel donations more quickly to credit union people who need help most (www.cuaid.coop). Starting in mid-September, each credit union, state credit union foundation, and state credit union trade association will have the ability to help the entire credit union community prepare for the next disaster. The "cuaid" icon can be placed on an Internet or intranet home page and members and employees can be encouraged to make tax-deductible donations that will help fellow members and employees recover from disasters.