PHOENIX and COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – That credit union motto of “people helping people” has taken on new meaning over the last month for Colorado and Arizona credit unions pressed into action to assist their own members, other fire victims and relief workers cope with the wildfire disasters. Since the worst fires broke out a month ago near Denver and Colorado Springs-and two weeks ago near Show Low, Ariz.-CUs in both states have joined in the relief effort collecting donations and merchandise from the public as well as providing financial assistance to victims. The Arizona Credit Union League said its Foundation, ordinarily used to assist small member CUs, has pledged $5,000 to the Salvation Army and other agencies in northeast Arizona aiding fire victims. “Whether you, your staff or your members have been affected, it is time that Arizona credit unions step up and help out where we can,” wrote James Knoff, chairman of the Foundation, in a June 26 letter to CEOs of Arizona CUs. Knoff, who also is president of Pima Federal Credit Union, Tucson, said the Foundation funds would be combined with monies individual CUs raise toward the relief effort. In Colorado, Ent Federal Credit Union of Colorado Springs helped start a fund-raising drive joined in by a local TV and radio station to aid fire victims and firefighters. So far nearly $16,500 has been raised, said a spokesman. With the so called “Hayman Fire” now 90% contained, Ent Federal, which briefly closed its Woodland Park branch located near the fire zone, said it planned to continue its fundraising drive until decisions are made by Red Cross and local relief agencies.. Ent said, however, it would continue “monitoring the impact of insurance underwriting with respect to pending mortgages.” “We have several hundred of our members in the fire area and so we’ve been making loan adjustments and granting extensions,” noted Brian Johnson, vice president of marketing at Arizona State Savings & Credit Union of Phoenix. The Pueblo Chapter of the Colorado Credit Union League said 100% of its chapter members had contributed to the fund-raising effort to fight the wildfires. “Ten credit unions in southern Colorado have firefighter’s boots or other collection holders in their lobbies to collect loose change or larger contributions,” noted the League. Decibel Credit Union in Pueblo, which spearheaded the effort in that southern Colorado city, noted that firefighters from the Pueblo and Pueblo West Fire Departments “came into Decibel’s offices to recognize the credit unions’ effort.” On hand for the event were local media and elected officials. SunWest Educational Credit Union noted that the fires “have been devastating to some of its members.”One member “who just got a home equity loan, lost his entire home and all his possessions.” SunWest “stepped forward right away to make a contribution to help out,” noted the League. Air Academy Federal CU at Colorado Springs said it was helping one of its SEG groups that had to be evacuated and was working with local fire stations “to provide water, Gatorade and blankets.” Jeffco Schools Credit Union said it is was offering special loan and teller services to assist members “with their cash flow needs, temporary housing requirements or to help repair damage to their homes.” We want our membership to know that their credit union is there for them in this time of need,” said Janet Meyers, president of JSCU. “We realize the uncertainties and personal losses caused by the fires are much more than what financial services can resolve” and yet the CU hopes it can be supportive “to ease the struggles” of its members. In Arizona, Rahima Eaton, manager of the $7 million Snowflake Mills Federal Credit Union in Snowflake, said more than half of its primary membership of 1,600 had been impacted by the fire, and it was doing “what we can to help out our members. Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, of Phoenix and the state’s largest, said it was accepting public donations for the American Red Cross at all of its branches. It said it has started a Wildfire Relief Fund account with an initial $1,000 on June 26. Arizona State Savings, which has a branch in Payson-a fire evacuation site-said it began receiving donations for fire victims and started selling Arizona flags to members at $5 apiece as part of the relief effort. – [email protected]

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