BEAUMONT, Texas -- The massive cleanup process began in earnest last week for those Ike-battered Texas credit unions now shifting their attention to aiding stricken employees and members while restoring normal operations.
CUNA Mutual Group reported more than 200 Gulf Coast CUs experienced some type of loss from the Sept. 13 storm with about 20 preparing claims for "significant damage," much of it in destroyed branches, flooded offices or damaged equipment.
Meanwhile, the national relief effort conducted by the Texas Credit Union Foundation and the National Credit Union Foundation to funnel donations to the hardest-hit CUs in southeast Texas brought in an estimated $314,000 from CUs, trade groups and vendors across the U.S.
More than $240,000 has already been distributed to needy CU employees through 485 grants of $500 each.
"There's no doubt the devastation in these communities compares to Katrina, just massive," declared Richard Ensweiler, president/CEO of the Texas Credit Union League, who spent several days, along with his staff, visiting CUs in coastal communities. Ensweiler is planning a second trip this week to Sabine Valley CUs where he will address a chapter meeting.
Ensweiler expressed astonishment and high praise at the dedication of CU employees "who lost their homes, just everything, and yet barely taking care of their own family needs, come back to work because of an obligation to help the member."
Many of the smallest CUs in the Beaumont-Galveston area said that while some branches were restored to full power last week, there are still a myriad of problems from mildewed furnishings to electrical breakdowns. And there's no telling when many of the offices might reopen.
"We're operating now out of a trailer with one of our branches that will need to be rebuilt," said Janna Achord, president/CEO of the $32 million Firestone Community FCU in Orange. Six Firestone CU employees lost their homes or the homes had severe damage.
The job now for her CU, she said, "is just trying to stay positive and do the best we can. We also try to employ a little sense of humor...That helps."
CUNA Mutual said that as Texas CUs get back to normal, the insurer "will likely see losses trickle in pertaining to ATMs, repos and data processing damage."
At Houston Police FCU, frontline personnel have been serving members in mobile units set up in the parking lot of the CU's main office, which was submerged in water when its roof was ripped off.
"Despite cramped working quarters, employee morale is high at Houston Police," a Texas league bulletin said. "Mitzy Plumb, who is living in an RV parked in her driveway because her house was crushed by trees, finds joy in her daily duties as an executive assistant."