CU Aid Helps Members Recover After Wildfires
While the devastating wildfires that scorched Southern California were still burning last fall, credit union employees, volunteers and members opened their pocketbooks to raise nearly $220,000 to help credit union members who might be affected.

This month, the first three grants from CU Aid—the centralized disaster relief fund-raising system activated during the fires by the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) and the California Credit Union League—were completed in the San Diego area, one of the hardest hit by the disaster.
First Future Credit Union members Daniel and September Katje, and Jacqui Olmos, a member of Great American Credit Union (which merged into Wescom Credit Union), both lost their homes. They received initial grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 to help begin their rebuilding efforts.
“This is unbelievable!” said September Katje of the CU Aid wildfire relief made possible by donations to the NCUF Disaster Relief Fund through She found out soon after the fires that she was pregnant with the couple’s third child. “This (disaster relief) will definitely help in getting on with our lives.”

The Katje family, who lived in a mobile home in Fallbrook, Calif., recalled taking a bag of clothes for each family member, with just a few photos and videos once they received the word to evacuate. They thought they would soon return to their home. But, their home was one of hundreds in the area completely destroyed. “There was nothing left,” Daniel Katje recalled. “Everything was completely melted. There was nothing left to save. It was very shocking.”

What was left were a few pieces of silverware, some of their children’s Precious Memories items, and the iron frame of a cradle. One thing that stood out for September Katje was seeing the remains of their daughters’ plastic swing set. “All that was left was the bar that held the swing,” she said, quietly.

The Katje family has more reasons to smile now.
The Katje family shows their relief after receiving a CU Aid grant check.In the center of this photo are September and Daniel Katje holding their two daughters after receiving their CU Aid grant check at First Future Credit Union.

Their check was presented by NCUF Chairman and USA Federal Credit Union CEO Mary Cunningham (second from left), with First Future Credit Union CEO Marla Shepard (left) and California Credit Union League Public Relations Director Henry Kertman (right).
Jacqui Olmos holds her grant check from CU AidJacqui Olmos and her 16-year-old daughter, residents of Ramona, Calif., also lost everything. “Everything burned. Everything was ash. It was all gone,” Olmos recalled. “Ironically, I had a weed wacker that didn’t work and it was off to the side of the house. That survived.”

Olmos called the support she has received—including the grant from CU Aid—a blessing. “I have insurance and there are other organizations that have helped, but it isn’t enough, unfortunately. This (grant) is proof that there’s sunshine behind all the shadows.”

In this photo, Olmos (second from left) holds her check from NCUF Chairman and USA Federal Credit Union CEO Mary Cunningham (left), Wescom Credit Union Project Manager - Branch Administration Vicki Aldridge (second from right), and California Credit Union League Public Relations Director Henry Kertman (right).
Living in the affected area, Cunningham said she could personally attest to the devastating effect of the fires. Credit union people from 31 states stepped up and raised money to help those impacted by the disaster.

“It’s a good thing to do and a good thing to be a part of,” said Cunningham. “I would like to thank every single member that has given to this fund.”

Over $200,000 Still Available for Wildfire Relief Grants

Thanks to the generosity of CU Aid donors, more than $200,000 in grant dollars are still available for credit union employees, volunteers and members who suffered unrecoverable losses from the California wildfires.

Click here for an application.

About CU Aid

www.cuaid.coopDisaster relief funds raised through CU Aid may be used for a broad range of disaster-related needs as identified by credit union organizations serving the affected areas.

These needs include, but are not limited to:
  • Critical Needs -- Credit union employees and volunteers can receive financial assistance for daily living items such as food, water, ice, batteries, clothing, diapers, temporary shelter, housing, gas and transportation.
  • Longer-term Recovery Needs -- After they recover what they can from insurance payouts, survivors may need assistance rebuilding or relocating to a new home, replacing lost vehicles and household items. As long as funds remain in the NCUF Disaster Relief Fund, NCUF in concert with its agent(s) managing the recovery efforts may expand the grant criteria to include these and other longer-term recovery needs that are not fully covered by insurance.
  • Reasonable Operational Needs -- While the first priority is to assist credit union employees and volunteers, assistance may also be provided directly to credit unions and their support organizations in order to help them become and remain operational. Operational expenses related to disaster recovery may include items such as relocating, setting up temporary service facilities, joining shared service networks, hiring temporary staff, mentoring and counseling traumatized staff, repairing building damage, replacing destroyed computer software/hardware, office furniture, office supplies, and other needs that are not fully covered by insurance.
  • Assisting Credit Union Members -- While CU Aid’s individual grant guidelines focus first on credit union employees and volunteers, some funds may be used to provide disaster-related services to members.
CU Aid was developed by the National Credit Union Foundation in cooperation with state credit union foundations, state credit union leagues, and the Credit Union National Association’s Disaster Preparedness Committee.

NCUF designed a CU Aid page for each state, as well as for CUNA Mutual and the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), to customize wherever a disaster strikes credit union people.
Visit the national CU Aid site