GULFPORT, Miss. – Gulf Coast Community Federal Credit Union, one of the hurricane-hit “adoptees” in CUNA’s “Adopt-A-Credit Union” program and the recipient of industry aid, is expressing gratitude to what the CEO calls “absolutely astounding” generosity. “We really had no idea any of all this assistance was coming until I picked up the phone and heard about it,” said Lisa Lindsey, the CU’s president who describes herself as a Katrina-weary veteran “who acquired a new skill-ripping out sheet rock insulation.” Like scores of Gulf Coast CUs, the $50 million CU suffered extensive flood and roof damage to its main office and two branches including one that was demolished. “But somehow we were able to reopen one of our branches using a generator within days of the hurricane and I have to give credit to my staff,” declared Lindsey whose $50 million CU has been the recipient of two CU-borrowed mobile branches, boxes of food and supplies plus a $1 million certificate of deposit. The CD funds have been deposited into Gulf Coast Community for liquidity purposes courtesy of its CUNA-designated adoptive benefactor, Fort Knox FCU of Radcliff, Ky. “It was just one of the wonderful things that happened to us,” declared Debbie Pidek, executive vice president of Gulf Coast, in describing the Kentucky solicitation of funds. The group of donor CD depositors has not been identified. And, Pidek added, not enough can be said about the help Gulf Coast received from the Mississippi Credit Union Association led by CEO Charles Elliott. Elliott for weeks has been on the Katrina frontlines across his own state. The two mobile branches are already witnessing heavy activity, were the donations of Ent FCU in Colorado Springs and of Kellogg Community FCU of Battle Creek, Mich. whose officers drove the vehicles to Gulfport on their own. Also assisting Gulf Coast with counsel as well as cash has been Dennis Dollar, its former CEO and ex-NCUA Chairman who acknowledged only that he has been an ombudsman for Gulf Coast as well as other Mississippi and Louisiana CUs ravaged by Katrina. “I have called several times to check on the welfare of my friends and co-workers at Gulf Coast,” said Dollar, head of Dollar Associates in Birmingham, Ala. who served as CEO of Gulf Coast from 1991-97 when he was named to the NCUA Board. For its part, Ent FCU dispatched its CFO, M J Coon, who with her husband, Michael, drove Ent’s mobile branch across country to Gulfport. The vehicle, which arrived in Gulfport Sept. 18, was loaded with 200 “We Care” packages assembled by Ent employees and containing bottled water, energy snacks, and personal care items. Also loaded down with 50 cases of foodstuffs, Kellogg Community’s “state of the art, full service” mobile branch was transported by three of its directors on Sept. 24. “Our chairman, Pat Rolfe, had suggested we join in the cooperative efforts and so we contacted NCUA which forwarded the information to the appropriate state league,” said Renee Allen, marketing manager of KCFCU. Eventually, contact was made with Gulf Coast. Joining in the drive from Michigan to Gulfport were Richard Smith, vice chairman, and Larry Hawblitz, secretary. “What a delight to get all those Kellogg cereals and cookies,” said Pidek of Gulf Coast. The Ent trip to Gulfport was not an easy one. Coon and her husband wound up sleeping in the vehicle as they were unable to find motel rooms along the way. “Once we got to Gulfport, we ended up sleeping in the homes of Gulf Coast members who were kind to let us stay over,” said Coon, who was well prepared for spending the night outdoors having been on overseas missions for her Colorado Springs church. Gulf Coast has had to shift the Ent and Kellogg mobile branches several times between sites depending on where power and phones are working in Gulfport. One of its busiest branches at Pass Road was destroyed and plans are being drawn to rebuild. “Our Bay St. Louis branch had several feet of water in it and our staff had to clean it out, then wait until just last Friday before we even got power back on there,” said Pidek. Even without phones, “that mobile branch enabled us to serve people who were desperate, living in tents, in store parking lots because even their shelters were destroyed,” said Pidek. Among Gulf Coast’s 42 employees, six including two loan officers had “lost just about everything” with two of that group actually resigning from the CU because of being displaced, said Pidek. Lindsey herself suffered first floor flooding to her home and has since moved into a rental property in Ocean Springs, said Pidek. Two board members, Helen Walker and James White, also lost their homes and yet still made it to the September board meting, said Pidek. The Gulf Coast staff, said Pidek, is particularly proud that the CU was able to provide cash to members four days after the storm hit though ATMs were inoperable. From an operational view, the CU is also proud that from the earliest stages, it has been providing real-time balances. Apart from receiving the mobile trailers and the $1 million CD, Gulf Coast was in a group of Mississippi CUs that received a visit Sept. 9 from NCUA Chairman JoAnn Johnson. Joining her on that tour was Elliott of the Mississippi CU Association. 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