CUs React to Wildfires' Impact

wildfires sierra central
Sierra Central CU's coordinated team of local businesses from Yuba City that prepared, cooked, and served 1,000 meals for evacuees, first responders, and firefighters last week in the Redding area.

Credit unions have come out in force to help California residents impacted by the multiple fires raging around the state.

One of the most destructive is the Carr Fire—started by a flat tire—which has now consumed more than 163,000 acres in the area surrounding the city of Redding in Shasta County. Some 21,000 have been evacuated, more than 1,000 structures have been destroyed, and seven people have died.

Among the credit unions affected by the Carr Fire have been Members 1st CU—which is headquartered in Redding—and Sierra Central CU, which has three branches in the area.

Most of Members 1st CU’s 17 staff members that were evacuated have returned home. Unfortunately, two employees suffered a total loss of their home and personal property, said VP of Marketing Josh Markle.

Members 1st CU’s four branches served as water collection sites for firefighters and evacuation centers from July 26 through Aug. 1. The credit union gifted additional PTO hours to all staff for their flexibility, dedication, and performance in dealing with the situation, Markle said. In addition, the credit union introduced special financial assistance and loan programs for community members affected by the fire, including discounted consumer loan products, extended Visa line increases, and loan deferments. The credit union also waived all account and loans fees for the month of August. It created a resource page for members, which among other things, features details on financial assistance and special discount loan programs.

At Sierra Central CU, the 18 employees that were evacuated are now back home, according to CEO John Cassidy. Unfortunately, the credit union has learned that 49 members have lost their homes.

In the first few days of the fire, Sierra Central donated $10,000 to Shasta Community College, which doubled as an evacuation center, and last week, Cassidy traveled to Redding with several restaurants and businesses to feed people displaced by the fire. The focus is now on helping members with the financial crisis they might be having to deal with—especially those who lost homes.

“We’re trying to help as many people as we can as fast as we can,” Cassidy added.

The Golden 1 CU’s Redding branch is open for business, and all employees in the Redding area are safe, according to PR Manager Karen Doron.  The credit union enacted relief efforts to assist members affected by the California wildfires. Its Community Emergency Relief Program offers short-term emergency loans up to $5,000 as well as payment options on existing loans. Its Member Contact Center is open to assist relief requests Mondays through Saturdays. The credit union also donated $5,000 each to the Shasta Community Regional Foundation and the Gold Country Region of the American Red Cross to assist with local relief efforts.

Patelco CU has also stepped in to help through its Disaster Relief Program, which provides immediate financial resources to members in good standing who are affected by natural disasters. This program includes access to no- or low-cost loans, reimbursement of non-network ATM fees, deferred loan payments and more. The credit union also helped pack more than 7,500 pounds of fruits and vegetables to be distributed as groceries to families in need, according to an article in the San Francisco Times.

Over in Mendocino and Lake counties, the Mendocino “Complex” fire has burned more than 290,000 acres—becoming the second largest wildfire in California history and leading to evacuations in Mendocino, Lake, and Colusa counties.

Community First CU’s Lakeport branch, which was closed due to the fire, reopened on Aug. 6—the first time in a week. Like other credit unions, it has launched special assistance programs for fire-affected members, including a Skip-a-Payment and 90-days no payment loan for car, RV, manufactured home, and other non-real estate loans.

If you’re interested in helping out the communities affected, consider the following:

Carr Fire:  Consider donating to: the Shasta Community Regional Foundation’s Community Disaster Relief Fund; the Salvation Army’s Redding fire recovery efforts fund, the United Way of Northern California’s Shasta County Wildfire Relief Fund; as well as Haven Humane for furry and feathered friends.

Mendocino Complex Fire:  You could donate to The United Way Bay Area

Siskiyou Central CU: A donation center for those impacted by the Klamathon Fire. It is accepting cash donations that will them be disbursed as gift cards. Contact the credit union at (530) 842-1694.

CUAid via the National Credit Union Foundation, is raising money to help credit union staff and volunteers impacted. If you would like to donate, please click here

If any staff or volunteer at your credit union has been affected by the fires, please click on the link above to access the CA Wildfires Emergency Disaster Relief Grant Application. The link also features information on grant guidelines.


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