As the death toll from monster hurricane Harvey continues to rise, southeastern Texas still faces massive flooding from torrential rains and a monumental rescue, search and clean-up operation.

Credit unions and their affiliates across the country continue to pour in donations and offer their support for the beleaguered Gulf Coast region. At the national level, both the Credit Union National Association and the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions have made donations to the relief effort and are encouraging CUs and other organizations within the industry to do the same.

A FEMA Urban Search and Rescue team deployed to support response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas
A FEMA Urban Search and Rescue team deployed to support response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Photo courtesy of FEMA News

Caroline Willard, president and CEO of Cornerstone Credit Union League, which represents hundreds of credit unions in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, said in a statement that “while we never want to live through a natural disaster of this magnitude, the cooperative spirit of credit unions always rises to the top.”

Willard praised all those involved in the ongoing recovery effort.

“It’s been an amazing experience to be a part of the Cornerstone Credit Union League and be able to see a staff offer 24-hour support to credit unions, hear the amazing stories of credit unions working together and sharing information and resources to lift up the industry as a whole, and at the same time see the national outpouring of offers to assist,” she said.

Cornerstone’s disaster response team, she noted, is “working around the clock” to determine the needs of affected credit unions, while managing offers of assistance to those in need.

“We know that in the coming days and weeks, credit unions in affected-areas will begin to have a better understanding of their needs as they assess damage to offices and the needs of members,” Willard added. “We are working closely with national partners like CUNA, CUNA Mutual Group, the National Credit Union Foundation and the NCUA.”

The Cornerstone Credit Union League and Credit Union Resources have contributed $10,000 to the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation to provide needed grant assistance to credit union staff and volunteers who have been affected by Harvey and resulting flooding and water damage.

Cornerstone said its staff is monitoring 198 credit unions (about 600 branches) in the hurricane- and flood-affected areas, or areas that could potentially be affected.

More than $355,000 collected so far

As of Wednesday afternoon, the National Credit Union Foundation’s CUAid and the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation collected more than $355,000 to support the needs of employees and volunteers of credit unions. Roughly $100,000 has come in through the Cornerstone Foundation with the remaining contributions having been made to CUAid. Also, 18 phase one $1,000 disaster relief grants have been approved by the Cornerstone Foundation, 15 of which have already been funded.

Meanwhile, the Catalyst Corporate Credit Union donated $50,000 to credit unions in Texas affected by the hurricane CUAid.

“Our hearts go out to credit union employees, their families, credit union volunteers and members in the area who have experienced such devastation,” said Kathy Garner, Catalyst’s president and CEO. “We know their needs are great and from everything we’ve heard, will continue to grow. We will monitor the situation through the next few days, keeping an eye on credit unions in our neighboring states.”

Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation is coordinating distribution of the CUAid funds in the disaster area in South Texas. Courtney Moran, CCUF’s executive director said her group is “overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the credit union community across the country.”

On Wednesday, Harold E. Feeney, commissioner of the Texas State Credit Union Department, issued an order authorizing the temporary closure of credit union offices in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey and the resulting flooding.

The order authorized “credit unions organized under the laws of the State of Texas, at their discretion, to temporarily close offices in the areas indicated above and other areas that may be impacted by Hurricane Harvey and related weather conditions, until appropriate human resources, utilities and security can be restored to safely serve the financial service needs of the affected credit union members. It is specifically directed that only those credit union offices directly affected by severe weather will close for more than three consecutive business days.”

Support from across the country

Separately, credit unions located in Texas’ neighbor to the north, Oklahoma, are helping flood victims.

The Cornerstone Credit Union League’s Oklahoma office, led by Oklahoma Credit Union Association President Nate Webb, is organizing assistance for storm-affected credit unions, credit union employees and thousands of others in south Texas who have been displaced from their homes.

"Many of the evacuees will be sent to temporary shelters in the Dallas area and will be in need of some very basic supplies," Webb said. "Oklahomans are well versed in supporting disaster victims and it's why we are conducting a drive to collect essential items here in Oklahoma that can be transported to the appropriate Dallas shelters."

Much further to the north, Dave Adams, president of the Michigan Credit Union League, implored CUs across the nation to help relieve storm victims in Texas.

“When a natural disaster occurs, like Tropical Storm Harvey, it reminds us that the credit union movement is also equipped to work cooperatively for those in need outside of our direct communities,” Adams said in a statement on the MCUL website.

Dave Adams , MCUL
Dave Adams, president and CEO of CU Solutions Group and the Michigan Credit Union League

The league, along with CU Solutions Group, will offer up to $20,000 in matching donations to the CUAid fund to help leverage the contributions of MCUL-member credit unions and CUSG customers.

“On behalf of MCUL & Affiliates, I encourage our Michigan credit unions to support both the CUAid fund as well as the American Red Cross,” Adams said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the many Texans, and others in this storm's path, who have been harmed physically and by significant property damage.”

Similarly, The Wisconsin Credit Union Foundation donated $1,500 to CUAid to kick-off its statewide effort to offer help to Texans, while encouraging others to follow their example.

Christine Henzig, director of communications at WCUF, called the storm’s damage “unprecedented,” adding that “relief efforts are expected to last for many months with recovery taking several years; relief agencies are being stressed to capacity.”

Further south, in an area not at all unfamiliar with these sorts of storms, the Southeastern CU Foundation, an affiliate of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions, which serves CUs in Florida and Alabama, has donated $10,000 in support of relief efforts.

Patrick La Pine, LSCU
Patrick La Pine, CEO of LSCU

“We are proud to be an organization that operates under the philosophy of ‘people helping people,’ and encourage all credit unions that can contribute to this cause to do so,” said LSCU President and CEO Patrick La Pine. “We are also grateful to be joined by so many credit unions and chapters around Alabama and Florida who have already pledged to support the people of Texas and Louisiana.”

Half of the SECUF donation will go to CUAid, with the other $5,000 going to the American Red Cross.

While many CU-related organizations are making monetary donations, other supplies are also needed to aid in the relief efforts, and Truliant CU of Winston-Salem, N.C. has partnered with Le Bleu Water of Advance, N.C. to donate 1,000 cases of water – approximately 25,000 bottles filling two truckloads that will begin arriving in Texas later this week.

“Hurricane Harvey is an unprecedented disaster that is taking a massive toll on communities and residents of Texas and now Louisiana,” said Karen DeSalvo, chief marketing officer at Truliant. “At Truliant Federal Credit Union, we are here to improve the lives of our members and their communities. And, this extends to those in need in other parts of our country.”