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Ike destroyed its branches but not its spirit
FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (9/25/08)--Janna Achord, the new CEO of Firestone Community FCU, has her job cut out for her. The credit union, located in Bridge City, Texas, was among the 188 credit unions in Southeast Texas that crossed paths with Mother Nature on Sept. 13. Hurricane Ike left two of its three branches non-operational. Six of the credit union's 20 employees have lost everything. Many other employees face costly repairs to their personal property. Achord took over the helm of the $33 million asset credit union three months ago. Though they've been a team for just a short time, Achold says she and Firestone Community's 20 employees, as well as its board of directors, have pulled together to rise above the lingering aftereffects of Ike. "Many of us have been through this before," she said. "We persevered over Hurricane Rita, and we'll do the same with Hurricane Ike. I couldn't be more proud of how our staff has handled this situation. They've put aside their own personal hardships to be there for our members." For example: An employee of the Orange County Sheriff's department was unable to retrieve any personal items from his home before the hurricane hit. His home was demolished. He lost everything. When the credit union's employees learned of his plight, they all pitched in to buy him new clothes and his prescription medication. "These employees have suffered great losses themselves, and yet they had compassion to reach into their pockets to help one of their members in need. It was an incredible act of kindness," said Texas Credit Union League President/CEO Dick Ensweiler. "The employees of Firestone Community FCU are indicative of the credit union difference. We are, at our heart, a movement that puts people above profits. In time of need, credit unions have proven time and time again our capacity for caring," Ensweiler added. Firestone Community's Mauriceville branch escaped the brunt of the hurricane and is fully operational. Its Bridge City branch was submerged in about three and a half feet of water. Estimates are it will be six months to a year before it will be able to re-open. The credit union's Orange branch--its busiest--also took in a substantial amount of salt water and is non-operational. However, the credit union is setting up a mobile branch unit at the Orange location. The Mauriceville branch is operating under normal hours. Once the Orange mobile branch is operational, the credit union will offer extended service hours there. Although the Bridge City branch will not re-open for six to 12 months, no members of its staff are in danger of losing their job, said Achord. Achord emphasized that although there is damage to brick and mortar at two branches, members' money is safe, and the credit union is operating in a secure and sound manner. The credit union is making emergency loans available to members affected by Ike. On a case-by-case basis, it is allowing members additional time to pay an existing loan. "Our members have survived the storm and are now beginning the process of rebuilding. The last thing they need to worry about is whether their money is protected," Achord said. "Our focus is making sure our members' needs are tended to."


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