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WASHINGTON – Responding in unprecedented fashion, credit unions across the U.S. led by state and national trade organizations including the National Credit Union Foundation began mobilizing disaster relief and charitable campaigns on a massive scale to aid Gulf Coast hurricane victims. “The devastation is so widespread we don’t even have the networks ready yet to reach those in credit unions and we may not know for days how bad it is,” declared a weary Steve Delfin, executive director of NCUF which is helping coordinate the charitable campaigns among CUNA and state league foundations. In activating the National Disaster Relief Fund-an entity tapped last December for Tsunami relief and in 2004 for Florida hurricanes – NCUF began organizing collection and disbursement systems in line with state Leagues specifying, however, that CUs, corporations and individuals “wishing to give for general humanitarian relief” do so directly through Internet engines. “Over the years the Foundation has done an awful lot of disaster relief coordination and done it extremely well and we are confident they will make sure the moneys raised will be channeled effectively and in short order,” declared the chairman of NCUF, Mary Cunningham, who also is president of USA FCU in San Diego. Cunningham said the “first inclination is to open wallets and purses and there is nothing wrong with that,” but at the moment the means to reach CU employees, volunteers and members is still in flux. She stressed the Foundation’s first priority will be to help “credit unions, Leagues and CUSOs and other entities rebuild their infrastructure.” Noting that funds had started pouring in from across the country and that the NCUF staff has been working feverishly to get the operation organized, the San Diego CU executive recalled that NCUF raised $1.4 million-its highest amount-for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing victims and $380,000 for Tsunami victims through the World Council of Credit Unions She said Delfin and members of the NCUF staff were already “preparing to do interviews” and going in with video equipment to catalogue the devastation and the impact on the CU community. Meanwhile, CUNA said that as a means of getting the ball rolling on national donations and so agencies “can start making distributions sooner than later” it was making a $10,000 donation to the NCUF/Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief Fund. Moreover, state Leagues were hastily getting Foundation checks in order though there continued to be widespread uncertainty what aid was needed and where the donations would go. “Our latest information indicates that nearly every state CU foundation plus the National CU Foundation are raising money to assist credit union members, volunteers and employees in the affected areas,” said a CUNA spokesman. “Our Foundation Board has already put together a fund raising plan and is encouraging our credit unions to donate,” said a spokeswoman for the Washington Credit Union League who compared the fund raising to 9/11 “when we gave out $20,000.” Commenting on the comparison to 9/11, Cunningham of NCUF noted that in that momentous disaster the New York League “asked to coordinate” the fund disbursement “and that we did.” Sue Helmreich, manager of outreach for the Ohio League, said the Foundation’s Grants Committee was “voting right now” on a $5,000 donation which she agreed “looks like a drop in the bucket” but represents the beginning of a much broader fund-raising effort. “We have 500 fabulous Ohio credit unions which have demonstrated their philanthropic” heart on everything from Tsunami relief to the Marietta floods on the Ohio River. “Keep in mind that all of the money we raise goes directly to the victims-there are no administrative fees,” said Helmreich. Danielle Brown, senior vice president of operations for the Oregon CU Association and head of its Foundation, said “we’re still in a kind of wait and see mode to determine what the needs are.” She said, “we’ve had several e-mails from credit unions wanting to help with contributions.” “I heard from our corporate, Northwest, asking about machinery that might be sent to the Gulf,” said Brown. In a press statement, NCUF said that CUs, individuals or “other organizations wishing to make contribution can do so online by credit card, by check or wire transfer. ” Donation forms can be found on the Foundation’s Web site – www.ncuf.coop – by clicking on the donation link in the headline story. Delfin, the executive director of NCUF, urged donors “ to take responsibility for their giving decisions by researching the charities they support” citing the Better Business Bureau’s Web site. Delfin, former chief fund raiser for the American Red Cross and United Way who took the NCUF job last November, said the online and internet mechanisms have made it far easier for CUs to make contributions than previous disasters. But Delfin said “the devastation is so widespread we don’t even have the networks ready to even reach those in credit unions and we may not know for days how bad it is.” -

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