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How Katrina changed staffers life Second in a series
MADISON, Wis. (8/31/10)--For people who lost their homes and their jobs in Hurricane Katrina, there are still moments--five years later--when the loss threatens to overwhelm. But then, they pick themselves up and get on with their new lives, grateful for what they have. "I can't watch it," Cheryl Oggs, vice president of the Mississippi Credit Union Association (MSCUA), said of the news coverage of Katrina's five-year anniversary Sunday. "It brings so many memories back." Oggs is a transplant from New Orleans, where she had served as executive vice president of the Louisiana Credit Union League at the time Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005, and the levee broke. She lost her home in St. Bernard's Parish and most of her possessions to 10-12 feet of water. Her elderly neighbors died in the flood. She and her husband lived for four months in a repossessed camper provided by a Georgia credit union. Oggs commuted to the league's temporary office in Baton Rouge, a much longer commute. In 2006, she and her husband moved to North Port, Fla., where they bought a home. When News Now talked with her then, she had gone into real estate and was excited to sell her first house. Monday News Now caught up with her again for an update. "I sold a few houses, and then a bad turn of luck hit," she said. The housing market took a turn for the worse and began its long dive. She tried to get a job with a credit union, but the area credit unions were small branches of larger Tampa and Orlando credit unions with no openings. She ended up with two offers: one to run a bank branch, and one to run a cardiology office. "I didn't want to work for a bank," so she took the cardiology office job. "When your life has been turned topsy turvy, you don't know what you're doing. I was lost as a person," Oggs told News Now. "Everything around me that made me feel secure, with a support system, was gone. You put your feet on the foundation and you go on, but it's not overnight--and there are still moments." "I wish someone had told me not to make a decision for a while. People are not able to make good decisions with that sense of urgency. No one told me to 'take your time to regroup,'" she said. She made poor buying choices--"I bought a purple leather sofa," she laughed. "What got into me?" She said that was typical of many of the people in the same circumstances. Oggs' son and his family moved back to New Orleans and were too far away, and her friends were spread in Baton Rouge and Mississippi. "I was missing credit unions. Work wasn't fun anymore. Work didn't have that warm and fuzzy credit union feel. I was miserable." She called a friend at the MSCUA and asked her to be on the alert for any credit-union related jobs. "Ten minutes later, Charlie (Charles Elliott, president of MSCUA) called and said, 'Come talk to us.'" Elliott hired her as vice president. She is responsible for compliance training, shared branch training, the association's new cooperative advertising program, the Young and Free program, and vendor relationships. Her husband is working on a captain's license so he can work offshore. Jackson, where MSCUA is located, is three hours from the coast. "I'm at the first stop people come to when they're evacuating from a hurricane. When Gustav came through, I had a lot of family in the house." She can't go back to New Orleans. "When I go there, I feel a dark cloud over everything. I feel fortunate here. You never know where God is going to direct you. I've found a safe, quiet place to heal, and people here are great." She expressed appreciation for those who reached out. One woman from SouthWest Corporate FCU, whom she has never met, checked up on her regularly. She sent Oggs an antique fleur-de-lis pin to remind her of New Orleans. "I cried like a baby." "Credit unions really are a life saver," Oggs added. "It's hard to explain. You don't appreciate credit unions until you go away from them. They're like family, and that's the case from sea to sea."


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