MADISON, Wis. (3/18/11)--Credit unions throughout North America have rallied to assist victims of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. One credit union, Altura CU, Riverside, Calif., has a special connection to the natural disaster. Riverside and Sendai, one of the hardest hit cities in Japan, have been sister cities since 1957, one of the oldest continuous sister-city relationships in the U.S. Altura has set up a Japan Relief Fund and is urging its 106,500 members to donate $1 each. "The images of the tragedy in Japan are stunning. We want to do what we can to help," said Altura CEO Mark Hawkins. "Yet we understand that people in the Inland Empire have their own financial struggles. So we are asking that each of our members contribute just $1. By pooling our donations, we can make a real difference." Donations will be collected for one month, then 100% of the funds collected will be donated to the American Red Cross. Following Haiti's earthquake in 2010, Altura members donated $42,000. Other efforts are under way from credit unions in other states. Ten credit unions in the county of Hawaii have agreed to serve as collection points for the “Aloha for Japan” relief effort, joining in a statewide campaign with the largest banks in Hawaii to assist people in Japan (damontucker.com March 16). Participating credit unions in the county of Hawaii include HFS FCU, Hilo; Hawaii Community FCU, Kailua Kona; CU Hawaii FCU, Hilo; Hawaii County Employees FCU, Hilo; and Hawaii First FCU, Kamuela. Also joining in the relief effort are the Independent Employers Group FCU, Hawaii; North Hawaii Community FCU, Honokaa; Ka’u FCU, Naalehu; Big Island FCU, Hilo; and Onomea FCU, Papaikou. “With such close ties between Hawaii and Japan, we are very happy to join in this collaborative effort of credit unions across the island to support our family, friends and all those in Japan suffering during this traumatic time,” said Bernard Balsis, president of the Independent Employers Group FCU. Redwood CU (RCU), Santa Rosa, Calif., is accepting contributions to the Red Cross Japanese Disaster Relief Fund to directly assist the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. All RCU branch locations have been designated as collection sites for donations from members and the general public. Bay FCU, Capitola, Calif., established a fund to provide assistance to Japan. Financial donations will support priority needs in Japan--food, water, temporary shelter, medical services and rescue efforts--through the American Red Cross. A second fund has been set up to provide aid to local residents who were displaced when their boat residences were damaged by strong tsunami currents in the Santa Cruz Harbor. “The victims of this devastation need our help,” said Bay Federal President/CEO Carrie Birkhofer. “The Red Cross and other organizations are doing all they can to care for victims and prevent further tragedy. I hope affected people in both Japan and Santa Cruz will be comforted by the knowledge that many caring people are stepping up to offer their support.” Mazuma CU, Kansas City, Mo., is offering free wire transfers to members who are sending money to Japan to help in relief efforts. From March 15-April 30, any member who wishes to wire money to an individual or organization for relief efforts of the earthquake and tsunami will not be charged the regular fee of $30 for each international wire transfer. “Mazuma is happy to help members who want to do what they can for the insurmountable tasks that lay before the country of Japan,” said Brandon Michaels, Mazuma chief financial officer. “It’s the least we can do to help.” In Canada, Saskatchewan credit unions are accepting cash donations to support Red Cross relief efforts in Japan. Donations will be accepted in all Saskatchewan credit unions until April 15. The 9.0 earthquake--the largest in Japan and the fifth largest in the world--knocked the island of Japan eight feet closer to the U.S. and produced a 23-foot tall wall of water that slammed into Japan’s eastern coast. Thousands are feared dead in Rukuzentakata and Sendai. It also created nuclear reactor concerns about five nuclear plants and forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands people who lived near one of the reactors (USA Today March 14).