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<p>It’s been more than four months since the anthrax letters closed the Brentwood United States Postal Service facility and the $17 million dollar credit union serving those employees lost their only office. It really is a tribute to the credit union movement and the way it responded to a very bad situation. At least there has been no loss of credit union employees’ lives as was the case in Oklahoma City. Nonetheless, in both cases it was USERS that was the processor and, in both cases they were on the scene immediately to determine what needed to be done to provide financial services to the members who were out of a workplace, and, for a while, work. The other immediate hero was the shared branch network, Encore Branch Services and the Family Service Centers leadership (FSC) that jumped in immediately to give the credit union real temporary, now permanent locations to serve members. Above all, it was Patricia Yates, the CEO, who without warning was in the center stage, and, performed like she’d been training for the moment all her life. She had to find a way to serve the members who had no access to their funds. With no office and no way to electronically alert members, she had to find a home quickly and get the word out. That the credit union is still going strong at its new home at 1818 New York Avenue is proof she did. Not only didn’t the CU have a home, it was going to experience real extraordinary costs that could directly affect its bottom line. At that point there were several alternatives, and, only one fit the situation. No forced merger, no liquidation. Washington Postal Employees had to have the support it needed to survive until the USPS decided what to do with the Brentwood facility. That support had to come from the credit union movement. It was imperative that WPEFCU not become the third victim of the anthrax at Brentwood. To solve the immediate need for offices, Tom Reed, CEO of Encore Branch Services which operates four area shared credit union branches, had already stepped in, waived all costs and fees, and got the system operator, Service Centers Corporation, Southfield, Mich, Dan Balagna to hook up its system with the credit union’s data processor, USERS of Valley Forge, Pa. Washington Postal Employees’ NCUA examiner Edith Jimmerson and Supervisory Examiner Janet Langston responded, and even passed out leaflets to members to tell them where they could go to get service. The D.C. Credit Union League alerted credit unions in this area of the need for assistance. Borrowing office space from other credit unions wasn’t a longterm solution, so Yates contacted Overton Associates to get them to build a bank branch trailer which was located quickly at the Brentwood site. On January 3rd, WPEFCI received notice it had to move off the Brentwood site by the 15th. The date was extended to the 18th, but that was the first notice. Now it was time to act quickly, and we saw Yates, her leadership and determination getting it done. She and I talked and immediately alerted the network that had developed that we had to find a location. Yates found one at 1919 New York Ave., NE We got the lease reviewed by legal in hours, signed and held a meeting in our offices in which the duties and responsibilities were parsed out to credit unions, the D.C. League, the national trade associations, the accountants, and NCUA. Everything from printers to crowd control lines were donated overnight. The big help came when David Reed of Apple Federal Credit Union in Fairfax, Va let us go shopping in the basement of their old building where they had the furniture left from the move to the new main office. Once the items were selected, David got it moved to the new site so it could open by January 22nd. The D.C. League contacted the local police to tell them there was a new financial institution in the precinct and arranged a mailing to all members informing them of the new location and phone numbers. Overton Associates moved the teller windows they had built in the trailer, made them fit the new space, and got the safe relocated to New York Avenue. The phone company, even with a push from the local credit union contacts, wasn’t exactly smooth, but, eventually the critical lines got installed and calls were forwarded. The journey is not over. Bob Spindler, executive director of the National Association of Postal Credit Unions has coordinated fund raising efforts. About $50,000 of the expenses have been covered by donations from other postal credit unions, including a $5,000 contribution from CUNA Mutual. That leaves more than $25,000 of the extraordinary expenses uncovered with some potentially large bills still outstanding. The location, while close to Brentwood, is not at the heart of WPEFCU’s field of membership, which is limited to postal employees and immediate family members in the Washington, D.C. area. So keeping in contact is not as easy as it was when everyone was under one roof. But that is a battle to be won with a marketing plan and time. Then there is the peculiar matter of $250,000 in cash. It was in the vault in Brentwood when the facility was closed. In mid-January it was removed by the USPS and taken to Ohio where it was irradiated. Now back in the USPS holding facility, the Baltimore Federal Reserve Bank won’t touch it until it has a letter from the Office of Science and Technology that the money was irradiated, gets some of its employees and an auditor to put on the hazmat stuff and count it so the credit union can receive credit for the funds. Small details. It is the Fed’s money, it has their name on it. They won’t take it back for destruction, costing the credit union valuable time, money and assets. Yates, her staff and the nation’s credit unions that decided that anthrax and a clear terrorist act were not going to close down one vulnerable credit union. It shows grit in the face of adversity. She, and her staff rose to the occasion and did one heck of a job. They deserve the credit. Bruce Jolly Attorney Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP Washington, D.C.</p>

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