Foundation distributes $22K in Calif. wildfire relief funds

October 7, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (10/7/15)--The National Credit Union Foundation so far has handed out more than $22,000 in direct financial aid to credit unions, their staffs and members that have been affected by wildfires in Northern California.

The foundation has processed a number of disaster relief grant applications, including many that have requested aid for Mendo Lake CU, Ukiah, Calif., whose employees and members have seen some of the most harmful effects.   


Click image to enlarge. Walter Dries, Mendo Lake CU member, walks over the ruins of his home, which was burned by wildfires to its foundation. (National Credit Union Foundation Photo)

“Heartbreaking stories of homes ‘burned completely’ down to the foundation and/or all personal belongings lost are pouring in,” the foundation wrote on its blog. “One application noted not just that they lost belongings, but 31 years’ worth of belongings. Some things you can’t put a price on.”

In a comment on the foundation’s blog, Richard Cooper, Mendo Lake CU president/CEO, described what the funding meant to his credit union.

“I can’t tell you how much it has meant to have had the additional resource of the foundation for our many members who have lost everything in the recent fires,” Cooper said. “We are a low-income-designated (community development financial institution), and most of our Lake County members already struggle on a day-to-day basis to make ends meet.

“Two of our own team members lost everything in the fire, and many were evacuated from their homes for long periods of time. Althofoundationlogough we have accomplished some amazing local fund raising with a variety of partners, every dollar that we can source makes a difference. More than a 1,000 homes were lost. Many of our members who lost their homes were uninsured renters--so they will be starting over from scratch. The foundation funds help shine a light on the old fashioned credit union difference of people helping people.”

Members and staff of Redwood CU, Santa Rosa, Calif., also have been hit hard by wildfires, according to the foundation.

Credit unions, members and employees can apply for funding through the foundation’s CUAid program, which allows credit unions and credit union organizations nationwide to directly support other credit union people to provide disaster relief.

The foundation reached out to the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues in addition to the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) to ask how it could help drive relief efforts.

The NWCUA asked for help in spreading the word about donating funds to the American Red Cross, while the California league pointed the foundation in the direction of Redwood and Mendo Lake.

“The need for relief was evident as many staff and members were affected,” the foundation said. “Thankfully, we have some funds in our general disaster relief fund since the foundation transfers any and all unused funds from previous campaigns to its ‘General Disaster Relief Fund’ for future disaster relief efforts.”