CUs Help Members, Communities as New Wildfires Reported


With new fires burning through forests and foothills across California, credit unions—though impacted—continue to serve their members and do their part to help affected communities.

Some credit unions have had to close branches due, in part, to poor air quality. There have been some employees that have had to evacuate. And Sierra Central CU CEO John Cassidy said two of its branches—in Paradise and Oroville—were temporarily closed on Wednesday, Sept. 9 due to the Bear Fire. However both are back in operation. “I’m proud of both of our staff and team” for making sure that members continue to be served, Cassidy said.

Like several other credit unions in the state, Sierra Central CU has activated its disaster relief loan program to help affected members, including providing emergency loans of up to $5,000.

Noble CU plans to donate to two groups: firefighters and a local organization helping to care for the large animals displaced during this time, said Chief Marketing Officer Keri Bennitt. 

"Many homeowners in that area often have numerous animals and many are large, such as horses." she said. "It’s an undertaking to not only transport them, but then find a place for them and continue to care for them.  The donation will total $5,000 and we will be encouraging others to donate to those organizations as well."

Other credit unions also are ratcheting up their fundraising efforts to help members as well as the communities around them.

San Mateo CU—which distributed $3.7 million to nearly 400 small businesses and provided loan relief to more than 6,000 members through its newly formed SMCU Community Fund in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency—is now turning its attention to the wildfires.

The credit union covers all administrative costs for the SMCU Community Fund, which continues to raise money for small businesses but also to provide for childcare grants and assist with community emergencies, such as the wildfires. It has already donated $10,000 to two nonprofits helping fire survivors with hopes of more coming soon, according to VP of Marketing & Community Relations Suzanne Knowlton.

“As a local, trusted financial institution, San Mateo Credit Union’s employees are passionate about helping the individuals and businesses we serve as well as all of San Mateo County. It is part of who we are. It’s in our DNA.” SMCU President and CEO Wade Painter said. “Our mission is to serve our community, and we are committed to that now more than ever, until we are all back on our feet.”

Firefighters First CU’s charitable arm, the Fire Family Foundation, is providing disaster relief kits to those on the front lines of the wildfires. If you wish to support the Foundation, click here.

The Redwood CU Community Fund (RCUCF) continues to accept donations for its 2020 Fire Relief Fund to assist fire survivors and aid relief efforts. One hundred percent of the tax-deductible donations will be distributed directly to fire survivors—beginning with those who lost their primary residence in Sonoma, Marin, Napa, and Lake counties⁠—and through nonprofit organizations. As additional funds become available, RCUCF will provide support to those who experienced increased expenses due to the recent evacuations, according to Communications and Public Relations Manager Tracy Condron.  Donations can be made online or by mail, P.O. Box 6104, Santa Rosa, CA 95406 (Attn: 2020 Fire Relief Fund).

“At Redwood Credit Union, every day we passionately serve our members, employees and communities and in times of crisis, that means stepping up even more,” said Redwood CU CEO Brett Martinez. “Year after year, we’re faced with a new wildfire season and it’s taking a toll on our communities’ emotional and financial wellness. Establishing an immediate relief fund for survivors who lost their homes due to the recent fires simply feels like the right thing to do.” 

Travis CU continues to accept donations to its Foundation to bring immediate financial assistance to the victims, firefighters, and communities. The credit union is covering administrative costs, so 100 percent of all donations will go directly towards supporting recovery efforts. To make a secure, tax-deductible donation online, click here.  Individuals may also send checks payable to the Travis Credit Union Foundation, noting that the donation is for the Wildfires Relief Fund. Checks should be mailed to: Travis Credit Union Foundation, PO Box 1086, Vacaville, CA. 95687-9998.

Catalyst Corporate FCU has services that can help impacted credit unions during closures and outages. For more information, go to Catalyst’s Health/Weather-Related Communications page.

Please email Tina Ramos-Ingold to let us know if your credit union, staff, or members have been impacted, or if you have started programs or services to assist members and/or the community.

Grants are available for credit union employees and board members to assist with immediate disaster relief needs. Visit the League's Disaster Relief and Preparedness page for more information on these grants, including an application form. If you would like to donate to CU Aid, you may do so from the Disaster Relief and Preparedness page.

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