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HOUSTON, Texas – If calamity is man’s true touchstone, the Great Flood of 2001 has certainly tested the mettle of the credit union community here and throughout the state. Over a two-day period-June 9 and 10-Tropical Storm Allison caused massive flooding in more than 28 Texas counties near the Gulf Coast, killing 22 people and causing more than $2 billion in estimated damages. The Texas Credit Union Foundation, with the assistance of the Texas Credit Union League and other organizations, is leading disaster relief efforts for credit unions and their employees and volunteers. First Community CU of Houston employee Debbie Ybarra sat in her apartment as the rain poured down that Friday evening and into Saturday morning. She had already moved what belongings she could onto high shelves and counters to keep them from water should it enter the apartment. Eventually, she watched water begin to seep through the walls and sewage back up through the bathtub. After 36 hours without sleep, Ybarra couldn’t stay awake any longer. She cleared a space large enough on her bed, which was also stacked with personal belongings, and dozed off. In her grogginess after awaking, she hoped that she had simply had a nightmare. She knew she hadn’t when she slid her feet off the bed, onto the floor and into ankle-deep water. More than a week later, many of Ybarra’s belongings are still stacked. Her floors are now bare concrete; the waterlogged carpeting has been ripped out and thrown away. Mold is growing on the inside of the walls and she’s not expecting insurance adjusters for several more days. Ybarra is representative of countless credit union employees whose homes, autos and personal belongings were destroyed by the flood. In addition, at least 22 credit unions experienced loss of power, telephones, and or flood damage. The tragedy of the situation is that many credit unions and individuals that experienced flood damage do not have flood insurance to cover the full extent of the damages. Much of the flooding occurred in areas of town that had never before been designated as flood plains. BCM Federal Credit Union suffered the heaviest flood damage at its location in the basement of the Baylor College of Medicine. According to NCUA reports, “the credit union will require extensive remodeling, replacement of all furniture, and computer equipment. It is uncertain if any files or the ATM located in the basement are salvageable. The credit union has resumed minimal member services on the second floor of the building and hopes to establish full member service shortly in leased office space nearby.” All credit unions have resumed operations to date, according to Claire Warner, assistant vice president of consulting services at Texas Credit Union League. “They have all said they were glad we were available to assist, but they don’t know the extent of their needs yet. They’re still in shock,” she said. Texas Credit Union Foundation has launched a three-phase disaster recovery plan for credit unions and their employees. Phase I focuses on damage assessment and fundraising efforts, Phase II will call for grant applications, Phase III will involve the review of grant applications and disbursement of funds. Through the month of June, TCUF will focus on Phase I – assessments and fundraising – and forms are currently available for status reports and donations. Thus far, the Texas Credit Union Foundation has $27,000 in Houston flood relief donations and an additional $17,500 in pledges from credit unions, chapters, organizations and individuals. “Thousands of people in the Houston area have lost their homes and personal belongings as a result of this storm,” said Elaine Laroa, Texas Credit Union Foundation (TCUF) Executive Director. “In disasters such as this, it’s heartwarming to see so many individuals reaching out to help others in need. I commend those credit unions and organizations who have extended their support.” Credit unions are also establishing special loans to help members in need. “If an individual shows us some type of proof that they are a flood victim, we are making loans of up to $5,000 at 5% APR. We had a woman come in whose apartment was destroyed. She had already contacted FEMA and was #1125 on Red Cross’ list. Her apartment complex didn’t have a place to move her but said that she could get out of her lease and get her deposit back, but it would take 60 days before she would receive the money. She was just standing in our lobby crying,” said Dale Roberts, CEO at Communicators CU. This calamity is far from over, but individuals across the state are rallying to help those in need. -

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