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Coastal Federal Community Credit Union has planted a victory garden to provide food for the area’s homeless.Ever since Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston Island in Texas last September, Coastal Federal has been on the forefront of financial institutions aiding the recovery, and last week marked a new milestone: the opening of an on-branch vegetable and fruit garden to feed the homeless.“Look, both we and our members have suffered quite a lot since the storm, and so this vegetable garden represents a simple way of giving back-letting those most in need pick up whatever vegetables they want,” explained Carol Gaylord, president/CEO of the $42 million Galveston CU. The CU garden in downtown Galveston bears a cornucopia of tomatoes, bell peppers and strawberries.Coastal has a homeless shelter across the street, so the CU this spring invited residents to comb the garden for vegetables “and help themselves to whatever they need.”Planting of the Coastal CU garden follows efforts by a city group to re-develop a nearby city park, which like the grounds of the Coastal CU, were destroyed by the hurricane’s salty floodwaters.After Ike killed all of the plants in the flower beds around Coastal, Gaylord said she wanted to do something with the space that would benefit both the CU members and downtown residents. “The very week the storm hit we had been making plans for our annual food drive and that all had to be scrapped, but my husband, Nick, suggested that in 2009 rather than give away items on a one-time basis, we should do something to feed people year-round,” said Gaylord.“I really wanted to help people who have no opportunity to eat fresh fruit and vegetables,” Nick Gaylord said.Planting the garden, said Gaylord, turned out to be a concrete way of demonstrating the CU ‘people helping people’ philosophy and also fits into the CU’s participation in the REAL Solutions program adopted by the Texas Credit Union League through the National Credit Union Foundation.In a more dramatic demonstration of the people code during the height of Ike, the Galveston CU provided an array of financial services, including vital cash distribution to both members and nonmembers, as the only functioning bank or CU on the island through a makeshift satellite facility in a downtown hotel. Local police had to escort CU personnel to and from the branch to ensure security.–[email protected]

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