SAN DIEGO (2/1/08)--Credit union members who lost their homes in the southern California wildfires are receiving disaster relief grants from CU Aid--and more than $200,000 in grants are still available to help members recover. CUAid.coop is the centralized disaster relief fund-raising system activated most recently by the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) and the California Credit Union League during the wildfires last fall (News Now Oct. 25). Since then, credit union employees, volunteers and members from 31 states raised nearly $220,000 to help credit union people in California affected by the fire. First Future CU members Daniel and September Katje, and Jacqui Olmos, a member of Great American CU, which merged into Wescom CU on Dec. 1, received initial grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 to help their rebuilding efforts. The checks were presented by NCUF Chairman Mary Cunningham, CEO of USA FCU in San Diego. “This will definitely help in getting on with our lives,” said September Katje. The grant program was made possible by donations to the NCUF Disaster Relief Fund. 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 when they received the word to evacuate. They thought they would soon return to their home. However, their home was one of hundreds in the area destroyed. “Everything was completely melted,” Daniel Katje recalled. “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 her daughters’ plastic swing set. “All that was left was the bar that held the swing,” she said. Jacqui Olmos and her 16-year-old daughter, residents of Ramona, Calif., lost their home and everything inside. “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,” she said. “This [grant] is proof that there’s sunshine behind all the shadows.” Living in the affected area, Cunningham said she could personally attest to the devastating aftermath of the fires and the importance of credit union people stepping up to raise money. “It’s a good thing to do and a good thing to be a part of,” she said. “I would like to thank every single member that has given to this fund.” CU Aid was developed by NCUF in cooperation with state credit union foundations, state credit union leagues, and the Credit Union National Association’s Disaster Preparedness Committee. More than $200,000 in grants are still available for credit union employees, volunteers and members who suffered unrecoverable losses from the wildfires. For an application, use the first resource link.