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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The staff of Envision Credit Union, like many others across the U.S., looked forward to having the three-day Labor Day holiday off to relax with family and friends. But they put their plans aside to help out in relief efforts for evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. On Sept. 3, the American Red Cross began issuing cash vouchers to Katrina evacuees who had made it to Tallahassee. The problem though was that the city’s financial institutions, like many businesses, were going to be closed for the three days. That’s when Florida State Rep. Lorranne Ausley (D-Tallahassee), who was at the city’s Red Cross office, turned to Florida Credit Union League EVP Alette Shutes, a close friend of hers, for help. Shutes in turn contacted FCUL President/CEO Guy Hood who got in touch with Envision CU President/CEO Ray Cromer. The result was that Cromer agreed to open the CU’s branch, located in one of Tallahassee’s Super Wal-Mart stores, for four hours each on Sunday and Monday for evacuees to bring their vouchers to and receive cash that would allow them to handle incidentals and expenses. Cromer explained that Envision’s Super Wal-Mart branch, opened a year ago, was selected because of its geographical proximity to the American Red Cross shelter nearby. “It was a question of them finding someone with enough facilities around Tallahassee to make it easy for the evacuees to get to. Our Super Wal-Mart branch was close to two locations where evacuees were staying – the downtown American Red Cross headquarters and processing center, and a church in the northeast section of town. In addition, by cashing their vouchers at our Super Wal-Mart branch, the people could then shop in the store for whatever they needed,” Cromer said. The CU’s Super Wal-Mart branch is usually open on Saturday. On Sunday and Labor Day it opened for four hours each day from 1-4 PM only for voucher handling. Envison says it assisted over 110 individuals and families from the Gulf Coast over the holiday weekend. Recounting what Envision successfully accomplished Cromer said, “I was there the entire time both days to meet people coming in and tried to engage them in conversation. These people had lost everything, but their spirit was so amazing. They were willing to accept what happened and get on with their lives. Many said they never wanted to return to New Orleans or Mississippi and preferred to stay in Tallahassee.” Since the end of the Labor Day weekend, Cromer has advised the American Red Cross that all of the CU’s branches, including the five in Tallahassee, will handle the evacuees’ vouchers. On Sept. 6, he said Envision took vouchers from an additional 200 families and individuals. “I can’t say enough about my crew, I get very emotional about it. They all told me helping these people out was the right thing to do and not to worry about paying them for working over the Labor Day holiday. None of these is have been possible without the spirit of cooperation and teamwork from a number of our crew members who volunteered to come in and open the office and render this service.” -

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