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CUs make it through first week since hurricane hit
FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (9/22/08)--Credit unions made it through their first week of the aftermath from Hurricane Ike's devastating hit to the region on Sept. 13. While many were finally getting enough power to operate, many are not fully operationsl. Meanwhile, others were rallying support. Roughly 12 of the 177 credit unions affected by Hurricane Ike last weekend were not operational, the National Credit Union Administration said last week. In the first week since the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) activated a national disaster relief fundraising campaign for credit union survivors, 61 donations totaling nearly $31,000 have been made through CUAid.coop, reported NCUF Friday. SchoolsFirst FCU, an $8 billion asset credit union in Santa Ana, Calif., leads these online donors with a $10,000 contribution. So far, 17 organizations have donated a total of over $27,000 through CUAid.coop. Their average donation is nearly $1,600. "What’s also encouraging in the first week of this effort is the number of individual donations," said Steve Bosack, NCUF deputy director. "Already 44 individuals, mainly credit union system employees, have donated a total of over $3,500 through CUAid.coop. Their average donation is over $80, which is very generous for individual disaster relief donors. "This early outpouring of support is a tribute to the credit union movement’s cooperative spirit," Bosack said. He noted the Texas and Louisiana Credit Union Leagues have done an outstanding job publicizing CUAid to their member credit unions. Once credit unions are able to inform their members about the opportunity to help through CUAid, the full potential of this online disaster relief fundraising platform will be realized, Bosack said. The Texas Credit Union Foundation reported Thursday that it had received about $65,000 in its Disaster Relief Fund, where credit unions inside the state are directing their donations. Texas Credit Union League President/CEO Dick Ensweiler, who will visit the stricken area Wednesday through Friday, was still making appeals to that state's credit unions for assistance. The league has a matchup database in which the hurricane-stricken credit unions with needs can post what they need and are matched up with credit unions offering assistance. Many of the affected credit unions in the area posted messages on their websites, updating members of the status of their branches, urging them to use shared branching, and offering services--such as special loans and deferred payments--to ease members' hardship. And those credit unions still experiencing problems with power and service consistently apologized for the inconvenience and asked for members' patience. Austin-based University FCU said its Galveston branch remains closed. "Deposit and withdrawal services are available at Shared Branches where power has been restored, including AMOCO FCU's Santa Fe and Bay Colony branches," it told members. Accounts were accessible via Internet Banking, phone banking and ATMs. It also offered members special loans and deferred payment up to 90 days on any loans, and provided information to help members with insurance claims. Amoco FCU's Texas City and Bay Colony branches were operating on a limited basis. As of Thursday, the Santa Fe and Bay Colony Branch locations were open with full services except for drive-thru service. The Texas City Branch has no electricition so service is limited. It too noted that online banking and bill pay, ATM, debit cards and credit cards are available. "We are working diligently to fully restore all phone lines and services," it told members. Area West FCU, which has been operating from an alternative site, expected to be back at its location Tuesday. Beacon FCU, whose La Porte and Baytown offices are open, said its Seabrook location still lacked electricity and was closed. Lack of power also affected its ATMs. "We are working to have them restored as soon as possible," it said, directing members to ATMs that were functional at its open branches. "The Beacon FCU family would like to thank all of our members for being patient. We will work through these trying times together, and we hope you and your members are safe." Beaumont Community FCU, which was still closed, according to its website Friday night, was granting 30-day loan extensions for members and noted it was processing transactions daily. It told members it could "send Western Union funds from your accounts at no charge." Due to the power outage in the area, the Brazosport Teachers FCU is still operating at the Travis County CU in Austin. Two branches of Chartway FCU remained closed while the others were functional. Brentwood Baptist Church FCU remained closed. Its website had been suspended during the week. Coastal Community FCU, based in Galveston, remained closed but was communicating via its website to members and urged them to use shared branching services. "We are extending all loan and MasterCard payments for 30 days because we care about you and want to make your lives a little bit easier," it told members. DuPont Goodrich FCU noted its Lumberton, Jasper and Vidor offices are open and others would open as power is restored. "We are answering phone calls; however, the phone lines have been unpredictable. We appreciate your patience if you experience any delays." It warned against leaving messages regarding transactions and suggested contact by e-mail. Education First Employees, which said it was "semi-operational" but closed, used an Intranet to update its employees daily, it said. "Your credit union will start daily activities as power is restored to our area. We hope that all our members remain safe and secure during this period. Your credit union is here to serve your financial needs during this critical time." El Paso Corp. FCU wrote on its website Tuesday it was still closed because its sponsor was closed. It encouraged members to use a shared branch location. First Service CU's website gives an idea of the types of problems the credit unions are coping with. Its note to members said it hoped "that all of you have come through the storm with little or no damage and are on the road to recovery. Certainly we know there are many of you inconvenienced from the storm and our thoughts are with you." As of Friday evening, it was still working from generator power at its main office. "Unfortunately, we have lost our phone lines and do not have an estimate yet when those will be repaired. This means that our Call Center and VIP Phone Line are down, but Home Banking is still up and working. We will keep you posted as to when phone service is restored." First Service said it had decided to shut down its generator at night. "In order to serve the majority of our members during daytime hours, we have decided to shut our generator down from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. until further notice to preserve the generator. During this downtime, members WILL be able to use ATM and Debit Cards but will not have access to Home Banking or the VIP Phone Line. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your patience," the credit union said. "We have had power restored to most of our branches but for those offices still without power, we may only be able to offer limited transactions so we apologize for the inconvenience but appreciate your patience during these difficult times," the credit union said. For many credit unions in the area, the message was a typical one.


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