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From the October-01, 2008 issue of Credit Union Times Magazine • Subscribe!
Ike's Aftermath Continues to Plague Texas Credit Unions
BEAUMONT, Texas -- The credit union community had plenty of misery to deal with last week in the cleanup and loss of personal property from Hurricane Ike, which affected nearly 200 CUs in two states.<p>Tales of perseverance and dedication elicited from mail clerks to CEOs were ubiquitous as CUs from devastated Galveston to water-logged Nederland recounted their experiences during another trying week.</p><p>At the same time CUs along the hard-hit Texas Coast wasted no time to get back to the business of serving members with disaster relief products ranging from skip-a-payment to sharply reduced loan rates.</p><p>Indeed, the $205 million Texas Bay Area CU in the Houston suburb of Pasadena said by midweek it had already granted more than 400 loan extensions valued at $3.5 million while also witnessing a sharp jump in new member applications in order to take advantage of its $500 disaster relief loan package.</p><p>The loan offers came as Texas Bay, like scores of other CUs, were still trying to get all of the branches on full power, making insurance claims and repairing damage to drive-in canopies, ripped roofs and flooded lobbies.</p><p>"Our branches are OK but we are still are using one diesel and three 5,000-watt generators in our main office," commented Paul Withey, vice president of strategic development and public relations at Texas Bay. All of the credit union's branches were able to reopen Sept. 16, three days after the storm hit. With more than half of its 60 employees relocated to small offices and stock rooms during the peak recovery period, the CU was able to function with high morale "and focused on helping the member even though we are in rather tight living arrangements."</p><p>In another story of perseverance, the $150 million DuPont Goodrich FCU of Beaumont stayed open for several hours to handle emergency cash and hand out bottled water to nervous residents of the city under mandatory evacuation orders Sept. 11, the night before Ike swept ashore.</p><p>"Shelley Landry was one of our vice presidents who elected to stay behind and ended up being rescued by boat after losing her home and all her possessions," noted Clint Wilson, marketing manager. "While she was stranded in five feet of water, she was bitten by ants and surrounded by alligators and even after this traumatic experience, she still showed up to work on the Monday after the storm to support co-workers and serve members."</p><p>Lisa Baione, DuPont's senior vice president, applauded CUs' resiliency. "I've been in the credit union industry for almost 25 years and have never seen a group of people embrace the credit union philosophy of people helping people like the DuGood employees," she said, referencing a CU nickname adopted as part of its branding.</p><p>In the two weeks following Ike's landfall, CUs with the help of state regulators in Louisiana and Texas and NCUA, worked hard at cooperating with one another at many levels.</p><p>"I can't say how grateful I am to AMOCO FCU in Texas City for letting me set up our mobile branch right on their parking lot complete with banners and all, so our members could access the cash they needed," said Tony Budet, president/CEO of the $929 million University FCU of Austin, whose Galveston branch was out of commission.</p><p>Budet said his CU was one of the lucky ones to experience little structural damage to its free-standing Galveston branch, located at the University of Texas Medical Center.</p><p>The Texas Credit Union League, noting the dire straits of Galveston in an e-mail distributed last week, said an estimated 80% of Galveston households had some level of flood damage from the storm surge.</p><p>"The city, once the home of 57,000 residents, has issued a long list of requirements and cautions to the returning citizens, including a sundown to sunup curfew," said the league, which listed several Galveston CUs as still closed.</p><p>In Houston, however, JSC FCU said its Galveston branch, located in the historic Strand district, "took in about six feet of water" and remains shuttered.</p><p>Meanwhile, the Texas Credit Union Foundation said that more than $135,000 in contributions had been received to help CU victims with $120,000 in grants already made to 247 individual applicants.</p><p>The National Credit Union Foundation in Washington said that its online CUAid vehicle had received $60,000 from national donors. </p><p>--firstname.lastname@example.org</p><p> </p><p> </p>
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