June marks the beginning of hurricane season and at the Foundation, we are trying to raise awareness for disaster preparedness all month. While it’s something that you hope never happens to you, it’s important to be armed and ready in case it does.
At the Foundation, we work to ignite, inspire, and respond. These are our three pillars of critical work that we do, with the last part – respond – referring to disaster relief. As a catalyst in the credit union movement, the Foundation often convenes resources to help people. CUAid is a great example of this as it brings the entire industry together to respond to those in need.
We want to take a walk through history this month looking back and remembering some of the biggest natural disasters that have affected our credit union family. You can ready our first post reliving Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and our post last week on the 2015 California Wildfires.
This week we are looking back at the devastating flooding that occurred in Louisiana in 2016.
“Louisiana has been severely affected by the recent floods in our state and could use your help,” said Connie Major, EVP/CFO of the Louisiana Credit Union League. “It’s been called the ‘great flood of 2016’ and it came so fast that many credit union people didn’t have enough time to even consider evacuating. Aside from the numerous members affected, we’ve heard from credit union CEOs and staff that have lost everything. We cannot determine the full impact just yet as people are still being airlifted from their homes via helicopters.”
CUAid was activated to harness the collective generosity of the credit union movement to spring to action and help those credit union people who desperately needed it. In just one week, $53,000 was raised via the credit union system, however the league reported around 200 credit union employees were affected.
Some employees were even being housed in credit union board rooms because they had no place to go. Even worse – many businesses and residents affected were not in a flood zone and didn’t have flood insurance.
Through CUAid, the Louisiana Credit Union Foundation and other channels, over $300,000 was raised to help 430 credit union employees affected by the devastating flooding in late August of 2016.
“In my 33-year credit union career I have seen and worked through many natural disasters,” said R. Keith Cranfield, Chief Risk Officer at EFCU Financial FCU in Baton Rouge, La. “I am always impressed with the resilience of the people of Southern Louisiana, but I’m most impressed with the generosity of those individuals not affected. I want to personally thank the Louisiana Credit Union League, the Foundation, and all of the credit unions and employees for their generosity in this time of need. I lost nearly all of my appliances and furniture as well as many of our family memories and treasures. When someone thinks of you in your time of need, it is priceless. The funds provided to me and all of our other employees are greatly appreciated.”
In an effort to assist with the relief efforts in Southeast Louisiana, the Louisiana Credit Union League (LCUL) also issued a national challenge, the Louisiana CU Strong Challenge, to encourage friendly competition amongst Louisiana credit unions to match or beat each other in donations to the Louisiana Credit Union Foundation. Credit unions participated by posting a video or their official “challenge accepted” photo using the hashtag #LACUStrong on Twitter, helping raise more than $67,000 ultimately.
“The #LACUStrong Challenge was created to help bring awareness and financial assistance to the victims of the great August flood,” said Lacey Hyer, LCUL VP of Communications & Public Relations. “However, we weren’t expecting the emotional strength and support that it provided to so many. For the credit union community to step up the way they did was so humbling. It helped lift so many spirits and reminded us all that there is no better place to work than credit unions.”
Affected credit unions in Louisiana also offered support to staff, such as:
- Paid time off to handle flood recovery insurance appointments;
- Dress-down days;
- Free grief counseling sessions;
- Donations of cleaning supplies, clothing, toiletries from non-affected staff;
- Extensions on loan payments to employees/members;
- Flexible work schedules to coincide with children’s school schedule (for those employees whose children’s schools had adopted a platoon schedule, or for those who were having to drive further to get their child to a different school);
- Once the Louisiana CU Foundation distributed quick cash grants of up to $500 to affected CU staff, many CUs matched the grant amount;
- Staff were allowed to bring their children to work for 2 weeks;
- Credit unions fed their staff lunch for the first two weeks; and
- One CU staff member was letting another employee borrow her car.
THIS is the credit union difference. It was such a hard time for so many, but to see credit unions immediately step up without even thinking it because that’s just WHO they are – is incredible. We say it so often, but “people helping people” is so much more than a credit union saying.
Without the National Credit Union Foundation, there is no CUAid. We hope that during this critical month you also consider a donation to your Foundation so that we can continue to help people get back on their feet after a disaster hits.
You can see more images (like the feature image) from the Louisiana Credit Union League here.