When Japan was rocked by the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, once again credit unions rallied to help.
In California, several credit unions including Redwood CU and Bay Federal Credit Union have opened their branches to accept contributions to the Red Cross Japanese Disaster Relief Fund.
"Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected by this disaster," said Brett Martinez, president/CEO of Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Redwood CU. "Supporting the American Red Cross efforts by accepting contributions at our 15 North Bay and San Francisco locations is our way of doing what we can to respond to the devastating situation in Japan."
According to the Red Cross, the financial donations will support priority needs in Japan–food, water, temporary shelter, medical services and rescue efforts. At Bay Federal CU, a second fund has been set up to provide aid to local residents who were displaced when their boat residences were damaged by tsunami currents in the Santa Cruz Harbor.
"The victims of this devastation need our help," said Carrie Birkhofer, president/CEO of Bay Federal. "The Red Cross and other organizations are doing all they can to care for victims and prevent further tragedy. I hope affected people in both Japan and Santa Cruz will be comforted by the knowledge that many caring people are stepping up to offer their support."
Over in Wisconsin, UW Credit Union has made it easier for members to donate directly from their Web accounts to the American Red Cross to support the disaster relief efforts. Members logging into Web can click on the Red Cross icon at the top of the main page to donate funds directly from any of their UW Credit Union accounts.
In a gesture to aid its members, two California credit unions serving the Japanese-American communities have waived wire transfer fees for individuals sending money to family and friends in Japan.
The $67 million Nikkeei CU of Gardena, taking note of the earthquake-tsunami losses, informed its members that "if you have been personally affected by the events" and planned to send money, Nikkei "would like to help."
The waiver is effective through April 30 and covers fees for utgoing wire transfers to Japan.
The $83 million Jacom CU of Los Angeles said it too would be waiving fees "and as we monitor the waiver may be extended past April 30." Jacom, which stands for the Japanese American Community, is directing it members to make donations to the Red Cross "and our board will be considering making out a check," said Ken Takemoto, CEO.
Takemoto said he finally made e-mail contact with his sister living in Tokyo who reported the rolling blackouts continue to cause misery to daily life. The "blackouts go from 3 to 7 p.m. and there is no gas available in the gas stations and the supermarket shelves are empty."
As of March 15, the American Red Cross made an initial contribution of $10 million to the Japanese Red Cross Society. According to David Meltzer, senior vice president of international services at the American Red Cross, the Japanese Red Cross, with two million volunteers nationwide, has also been focused on supporting the people evacuated in response to damaged to nuclear power plants in the north.