Tears, Hugs & Hope In Wake Of Hurricane Show CUs At Their Best

The days immediately following Katrina were so incredibly difficult for our employees as well as our members at Gulf Coast Community Federal Credit Union. The devastation in our area was such that many of our employees had lost their homes. One of our Gulfport branches was completely destroyed and our Bay St. Louis branch had been in the way of the surge and suffered serious water damage.

Our main office in Gulfport was damaged but still viable, so everyone gathered there almost immediately after the storm and began working to reopen and serve our members. There were many stories, but one particular loan officer who was from the Hancock County area that was so heavily impacted drove to our Bay St. Louis branch, which had the water damage, and just waited in the parking lot to meet members who came to that branch seeking help. Even though she couldn't even get into our building at that point, she wanted to be there just to reassure those members that we were not only going to quickly open the main office, but that we were already working to find a way to service them right there in their home county.

Later she recalled that as each member drove up and she got out of her car to greet them, she just held on to these members as they cried and poured their hearts out to her about their lost homes. She said she cried right along with them. It meant so much to them, and later, after we'd served that area through a generously donated mobile unit for some time, and finally finished renovating the branch, this loan officer relayed how one woman who was still working to get back into her own home came in to our branch and looked around in amazement at our beautiful new lobby. This member said that seeing that finished branch looking better than ever gave her hope that she would one day be back in her own home.

This touched all of us beyond belief, this idea that the credit union actually brought our members hope in the face of such heartbreaking devastation.

Debbie Pidek is Executive Vice President/CCO, Gulf Coast Community Federal Credit Union in Gulfport, Miss.

Personal Recollections of CUs: A CU Journal Series

To mark the 100th Anniversary of Credit Unions, Credit Union Journal is publishing "100 voices" answering, "The one personal anecdote from my credit union career that comes to my mind and which sums up what credit unions are all about is..." Wish to share your story? E-mail fdiekmann@cujournal.com. Limit is 400 words.