BATON ROUGE, La. – Edward Speed, CEO of the $900 million Texas Dow Employees CU in Lake Jackson, Tex., and a private pilot, got the urgent call Sept. 2 that another CU – with the Dow name but unrelated – was in desperate need of cash to handle the flood of Katrina flood victims during the Labor Day weekend. With "security problematic" and with state police turning away do-good relief caravans at the Louisiana border, "there was only one viable solution," says Speed. "Fly the cash to Baton Rouge." The mercy mission of airlifted cash saved the day – and meant "we were able to stay open Labor Day to help folks who had nothing but now would get cash to eat, buy gas, and get by," said a grateful Jeff Hendrickson, president and CEO of the Dow FCU of Baton Rouge. Both CEOs admit a few rules on transporting cash might have been broken but it was worth it considering the dire need to come up with currency for Katrina victims during the Labor Day weekend. Indeed, the $120 million Dow FCU, with 15,000 members and which earlier had agreed to handle transactions for members of mostly-shuttered ASI CU of Hanrahan, in a New Orleans suburb, was the only CU open on Labor Day. Hibernia Bank was the only bank open in Baton Rouge on the holiday. "We had heavy traffic" but Dow FCU was able to cope, said Hendrickson who recalled the urgent need on Friday when he realized his Federal Reserve shipment of cash "would not be coming." "We needed to contact a large enough credit union out of the immediate area that could assist us with the money," said Hendrickson. By luck Hendrickson said he called "a CEO who happened to be a pilot." Speed was not supposed to be in his office but "just happened to be there and looked down at the phone and answered one last voice mail message." The message from Hendrickson was for assistance and Speed then called off a weekend trip to meet up with his wife in San Antonio and decided on the two-hour, 300-mile air flight as the only practical way to bring the cash to Baton Rouge. Joining him on the flight to Baton Rouge with $600,000 in currency was Lance Wortham, a Texas Dow commercial vice president. With the Baton Rouge airport a major staging area for the relief effort, Speed and Wortham encountered air delays but finally "we were met by the CEO, Jeff Hendrickson, his COO Todd Zirkle, and armed security form the local Sheriff's department who came out to the plane to meet us" to convoy the $600,000 to Dow FCU's main office where the vault was located. Both CEOs describe one another as heroes for the airlift mission. "If there is a hero here it has to be Jeff Hendrickson, who was determined that his credit union would not under any circumstances fail people in need," said Speed. And, Hendirckson countered that Speed's air trip "really humbled me" adding "I knew if I called upon another credit union, if I relied on our movement, I knew someone would come through for us." -


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