TIGARD, Ore., and SEATAC, Wash. (8/24/15)--Many Northwest families have suffered significant loss as a result of the devastating wildfires sweeping across Oregon and Washington. In an effort to help the community, the Northwest Credit Union Foundation (NWCUF) is teaming with the National Credit Union Foundation and local Red Cross organizations to raise relief funds in support of the victims.
The NWCUF has seeded an emergency fund and called for donations to assist victims of the Chelan Wildfire burning in Central Washington and the Canyon Creek Complex Fire that has destroyed more than 48,000 acres near John Day, Ore.
Donors have the option of directing their donation to those specific areas if they choose. There is also a general fund established to support wildfire victims in Oregon and Washington.
Local news outlets also have alerted the public to the credit union community's efforts and the donation website.
“The fires burning in Oregon and Washington have affected thousands of lives. Countless families have lost their homes,” said NWCUF Executive Director Denise Gabel. “Whether the victims are credit union members or not, we feel it’s our duty to help these families rebuild. By pulling together we can truly make a difference for those hurting in our community.”
The National Credit Union Foundation typically manages disaster relief fundraising for the credit union system, and in this case, is working with the NWCUF to assist in fundraising. Christopher Morris, the foundation's director of communications, said, “There is a critical need for funds in the area and contributing to help our brothers and sisters through this difficult time is a great example of the credit union movement’s ‘people helping people’ philosophy.”
Old West FCU, which has a branch in John Day, Ore.--a town impacted by the Canyon Creek Complex fires--has turned itself into a hub for donations from the community, the Northwest Credit Union Association reported (Anthem Aug. 20). The credit union has set up a donations account for local residents to directly benefit those affected in Grant County.
“There were two fires that basically blew up at the same time, creating a literal firestorm that traveled several miles down both sides of Canyon Creek in the space a few minutes,” said Ken Olson, Old West FCU’s president/CEO, who watched as flames came perilously close to his own home.
“Many residents literally fled for their lives with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a few mementos, as their homes were consumed in a matter of minutes.”
“It is heartbreaking to see our friends and neighbors lose their homes,” Olson continued, “and as a true community financial institution, it is Old West Federal Credit Union’s social and moral mandate to put our financial, emotional and physical resources to work in helping those who have lost so much recover from this tragedy.”
In a letter on Old West FCU's website, Olson wrote, "We are putting a small loan fund together for those folks who have been most affected, to cover such things as temporary living, insurance deductibles, etc. The loan will have delayed payments, a subsidized interest rate, and more relaxed underwriting criteria. Also if you have a loan with us now we can arrange skip-payments or other accommodations you might need."
Coulee Dam (Wash.) FCU closed two of its branches Friday because of the fire and related evacautions. According to its website, it expects to reopen the Omak and Republic branches today.