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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas – Before closing its doors for the Labor Day holiday, the Texas Credit Union League sent a letter to its member credit unions that praised them for their eagerness to help victims of Hurricane Katrina and that created a single communication tool for relaying daily updates to them concerning hurricane relief efforts. “The generosity of Texas credit unions and their members has been overwhelming, in response to the desperate needs of all the families in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama who have lost so much..With tens of thousands of desperate victims arriving in Texas, all of us are eager to roll up our sleeves and help make our neighbors comfortable during what could be an extended stay in the Lone Star State,” reads a portion of the letter signed by TCUL CEO Dick Ensweiler. “It has become clear that with all the outpouring of support,” the letter continued, “there is a need for constant information and updates about fundraising, relief efforts, financial services for the influx of people into Texas, and regulatory guidance for dealing with this unprecedented situation. This is the first of a new daily update about the relief efforts that will continue for the foreseeable future.” Early estimates placed the number of evacuees moving into Texas from affected states at 75,000, with Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth and San Antonio receiving large numbers in emergency shelters being created in those cities. Credit unions are responding by meeting the physical and financial needs of many credit union members and non-members. Fundraising and drives for food, clothing and supplies were launched around the state. For example, EECU in Fort Worth issued a challenge to the largest credit unions to match EECU’s $25,000 donation to the Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief Fund. Accepting the challenge immediately were GECU in El Paso, Firstmark CU in San Antonio, United Heritage FCU in Austin, Texas Dow ECU in Lake Jackson and University FCU in Austin. East Texas Professional CU in Longview is working with local authorities to collect new blankets, bedding, towels, toiletries and entertainment items for children living in temporary shelters. Other Texas credit unions developed victim-friendly check cashing, wire transfer and emergency loan services. For example, Texas FCU in Dallas began offering a special Hurricane Katrina Relief Loan that allows members to borrow up to $1,000 at 0.25 percent APR for up to three years to contribute to the American Red Cross, Salvation Army or other charitable organization. This will enable members to make immediate tax deductible cash contributions to support emergency relief efforts without having to use existing savings. Members can make monthly payments of approximately $28 for three years and pay only $3.90 total interest. Other organizations are stepping to the plate. In addition to providing operational guidance to affected credit unions, Dallas-based Southwest Corporate FCU announced that it would waive the fees for wires and Western Union transfers that are directly connected to getting money to members affected by Hurricane Katrina. The Texas Credit Union Foundation approved an initial emergency disaster grant of $7,500 to the Louisiana Credit Union League to assist remote employees with emergency needs. At TCUL’s Leadership Conference in San Antonio Sept. 8-10, TCUF planned to hold a silent auction for jewelry donated by Herbert Goldberg Jewelry, with proceeds going to the disaster relief fund. As of Sept. 2, the TCUF had received $192,000 in donations and pledges from 13 credit unions across the state, the League, Credit Union Resources, Inc. and the Foundation for the Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief Fund. TCUL reported that it maintains daily contact with officials from the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama Credit Union Leagues about providing assistance – both monetary and technological – and that the Leagues had been extremely grateful for the support. -

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