LADYSMITH, Wis. – The sentiment has been echoed by many of the town folk here: if it had to happen on any day, Labor Day was as good as any. It being the powerful tornado that came without much warning and ravaged at least 26 businesses, 17 homes and damaged 130 buildings with repairs expected to exceed $20 million. And, it occurring on a day when businesses were closed for the holiday. Among those hit was Heritage Credit Union's Ladysmith branch, which was up and running two days after the tornado hit. "We're getting back to business," said Mark Schrimpf, Heritage's vice president. The branch suffered a beam falling through the roof, a broken window, some ceiling tiles being blown away and one of the drive-up lanes was damaged, Schrimpf said. Phone service was restored one day after the credit union opened and while foot traffic has been light, members are slowly making their way back to the branch for business. Of the seven employees at the Ladysmith branch, one sustained roof damage to their personal home. The credit union, which serves 25,550 members and has $122 million in assets, was chartered in 1934 as Approved Credit Union, years later to become Oscar Mayer Credit Union. As Oscar Mayer and Co. expanded its operations to other states, the credit union applied for a federal charter in order to serve employees outside of Wisconsin. In 1982, the credit union began to offer its services to other select employee groups and ultimately converted from a federal to a state charter to become Heritage. Today, Heritage has five branches in Wisconsin, four in Illinois and one in Tennessee and North Carolina. A day after the storm, members did most of their deposits at the credit union's nearby branch in Chetek, Schrimpf said. Heritage is involved in a county program that will provide funds for long-term care after the American Red Cross pulls out. "We're still waiting to hear from members on what their needs are," Schrimpf said. "We have talked about low-interest loans and (the week of the tornado), we brought checking accounts to negative to accommodate deposits." Schrimpf also said the credit union is in the process of securing estimates for repairs and is working with the insurance company. He is hoping repair work will commence soon. Meanwhile, dozens of National Guard troops joined the hundreds of volunteers and residents clearing wreckage. Miraculously, no deaths were attributed to the tornado, but 37 residents suffered injuries ranging from lacerations to broken legs. The Red Cross established a shelter at an elementary school where 20 people found refuge with volunteers providing food, water and mental health counseling to residents. Two emergency response vehicles were deployed to the region and are providing snacks and drinks to hundreds of residents and relief workers. The Red Cross also established a service center at the local armory to accommodate individuals needing assistance. -

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