Alabama credit union leaders are recalling both harrowing and tragic tales of their employees surviving last week's devastating tornadoes, including one staffer emerging unscathed after her home disintegrated around her.
“We are so fortunate that she’s OK,” said David Eubanks, president/CEO of the $240 million Community CU of Gadsden, which also saw its 2,400-square-foot, seven-employee Rainsville branch demolished in the storm.
The Gadsden CU said it was preparing Tuesday to install at the site a mobile branch trailer donated by Pen Air FCU of Pensacola, Fla. under an arrangement with the League of Southeastern Credit Unions.
“I’d also like to thank EPL for really helping us out and I also have to mention Monte Hill at Family First Savings,” Eubanks said of help from the Birmingham-based core processor and the CEO of a Gadsden competitor.
Credit unions across the northern part of the hard-hit state were still struggling with power issues as some CUs were finding normal electricity again after operating on generators since the ferocious storms swept through last Wednesday, killing hundreds of people across the South.
The hardest-hit CU in Tuscaloosa, the $33 million DCH CU, with a hospital employee member base, re-opened on generator power for the first time at noon Monday after being closed last Thursday and Friday.
“Two DCH employees lost everything they had in the tornado,” said Michael Bridges, vice president of the league. He was joined by Patrick La Pine, its president/CEO, as they met with DCH employees Monday to assess recovery efforts.
Using shared branching and a mobile center in the hospital cafeteria, DCH said it has now extended $125,000 in $500 emergency loans. Similar emergency programs were being set up by other Alabama CUs, a number of which reported their employees suffered loss of loved ones and property.
In Pennington, an employee of NAHEOLA CU lost his home “and both cars,” said the league. “To see the destruction first hand in Tuscaloosa is truly humbling,” said Bridges. “One neighborhood had cars from a local dealership in their area and the dealership was more than a half mile away. Some credit unions were right in the path of the tornado before it slightly turned and spared the credit union. You can stand in Alabama One CU and look across the street and see houses destroyed, while the credit union has minor water damage.”
Bridges said he found the staff of the impacted CUs “truly amazing” as he also heard “the very difficult stories employees and members who have lost loved ones.”
The National Credit Union Foundation in Madison, Wis., said in two days it has already collected $15,000 from the national CU community through its online disaster relief program, CUAid, assist credit union employees affected by the tornados.