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Funds rolling in to help CUs says league

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FARMER'S BRANCH, Texas (9/23/08)--As of late Monday, the Texas Credit Union Foundation (TCUF) had received over $114,400 in donations and $29,000 donated through CUAid from credit unions and individuals across the nation to assist credit union employees affected by Hurricane Ike. The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF), which is collecting from credit unions not based in Texas, had, as of Monday afternoon, more than $60,000 in its Disaster Relief Fund, said Steve Bosack, NCUF deputy director. The Texas foundation already has provided $103,297 in emergency grants to credit union staff affected by the Sept. 13 hurricane. In an update Friday, the Texas Credit Union League said that "grant requests have been coming across the fax machine non-stop." Credit unions across the country have shown tremendous compassion and generosity, said league President/CEO Dick Ensweiler. From generators to office equipment to mobile branches, the credit union community was quick to respond to the needs of the credit unions in Southeast Texas, he said. The road to recovery remains a long one, and the league will continue working with the Ike-affected credit unions, matching their needs with available resources, Ensweiler said. He noted that credit union staff have been left homeless or with more damage than they can handle. "We need to make sure they understand they are not alone and that their credit union family stands ready to help them through the difficult process of rebuilding." While credit unions in Texas are being encouraged to make donations directly to the TCUF Disaster Relief Fund, those in other states are encouraged to donate funds through, NCUF's primary disaster relief fund. For more information on both, use the first resource link. For a map of where credit unions hit are located and their status, use the "map" resource link.

128 CUs damaged by Ike now fully operational

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FARMER'S BRANCH, Texas (9/23/08)--Of the 188 credit unions in Texas damaged by Hurricane Ike, 128 are now fully operational and another 55 have some degree of restored service. Only five, located in the hardest hit areas, remain non-operational, said the Texas Credit Union League. "We are proud, to say the least, of how well the credit union community has pulled together to make sure that institutions in the affected area have the support and resources needed to get back up and running for their members," said league President/CEO Dick Ensweiler. "It's hard to imagine any other industry that would send resources to 'competitors.'" "In this time of crisis, credit unions have demonstrated once again that the cooperative nature of our movement is its greatest strength. The focus remains on what is most important: the owners/members of our institutions," he said. For an update on fundraising, see the story, "Funds rolling in to help CUs, says league." The city of Galveston, Texas, hit hard by Hurricane Ike, will begin permitting its residents to return to the island tomorrow as some of the essential utilities and services have been restored. "This is good news for the five credit unions that are located on the island," said Rick Grady, Texas Credit Union League vice president of marketing, public relations and communications. The west end of the island will still be closed for a period because of "serious destruction" to roads and because debris still exists. "The Bolivar Peninsula is still inaccessible by road. Hurricane Ike "peeled nearly every road off the ground and threw much of it into Galveston Bay," said Grady in an update Monday morning. Only high-profile vehicles and boats can reach much of the peninsula. Electrical power continued to be a concern in some areas. As of Monday morning, nearly 1.8 million customers have regained their power, with 852,000 still without power. Most of those were in Harris County. Running water and sewer operations also are beginning to be restored.

REAL Solutions goes to New Jersey

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HIGHSTOWN, N.J. (9/23/08)--The New Jersey Credit Union League and the New Jersey Credit Union Foundation have teamed up to assist low-wealth members in breaking the cycle of debt by bringing REAL Solutions to the state. League President Paul Gentile made the announcement Sunday at the league's annual convention. REAL Solutions is a program of the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) that provides "Relevant, Effective, Asset-building, and Loyalty-producing (REAL)" services. NCUF designed the program to work with state credit union leagues to help credit unions offer turnkey services, such as payday lending alternative loans, to members. "With the financial strife gripping America, there has never been a more important time for New Jersey credit unions to step up to help members in need of affordable financial services," said Gentile. The New Jersey foundation has committed to funding the program for the initial year. League staff will help manage the program and work with credit unions to develop REAL Solutions in their credit unions, with the help of a field coach assigned by NCUF. The New Jersey foundation is funded through credit union investments in the Community Investment Fund, and through direct donations. For more information, use the resource link.

Commission approves Illinois CUs student loan program

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CHICAGO (/23/08)--The Illinois Student Assistance Commission has given its go-ahead for a $100 million plan for student loans in an arrangement with eight credit unions in the state. The commission, in charge of student loans, met in Evansville and approved the arrangement, which was announced earlier this month (News Now Sept. 8). Andrew Davis, commission executive director, said he approached 12 major banks and at least six foreign banks to invest in student loans. But, he said, major lenders across the nation have bailed on student loans to shore up their finances during the subprime mortgage crisis (Belleville News Democrat Sept. 20). Some states, he said, shut down their student loan programs. The credit unions are a unique solution in the U.S., Davis said. The $100 million investment will provide loans for as many as 20,000 college students per year, he said. Credit unions in the program include:
* Alliant CU, Chicago; * Baxter CU, Vernon Hills; * Citizens Equity First CU, Peoria; * Corporate American Family CU, Elgin; * Credit Union 1, Rantoul; * I.H. Mississippi Valley CU, Moline; * Motorola CU, Schaumburg; and * Scott CU, Collinsville.
For more detail about the plan, use the first resource link.

Missouri announces Desjardins Herring Maxwell awards

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ST. LOUIS (9/23/08)--The Missouri Credit Union Association announced the recipients of the state-level Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award, the Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action and the Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award (The Missouri Difference Sept. 19). Dora Maxwell first-place winners include:
* Joplin (Mo.) Metro CU, $5 million to $20 million in assets; * Raytown-Lee’s Summit Community CU, Raytown, $20 million to $50 million; * Central Missouri Community CU, Warrensburg, $50 million to $100 million; * Mid Missouri CU, Ft. Leonard Wood, $100 million to $200 million; * Mazuma CU, Kansas City, $200 million to $500 million; and * CommunityAmerica, Kansas City, more than $500 million.
Louise Herring first-place recipients include:
* Raytown-Lee’s Summit Community, less than $50 million in assets; * St. Louis (Mo.). Community CU, $50 million to $250 million; and * Vantage CU, Bridgeton, more than $250 million.
Desjardins first-place winners are:
* Raytown-Lee’s Summit Community, $35 million to $75 million in assets; * Gateway Metro, St. Louis, $75 million to $250 million; and * Vantage CU, more than $250 million.

West Community CU helps biz member through flood

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ST. LOUIS (9/23/08)--A St. Louis-based credit union went to the aid of several local business members hit hard by storms from the remnants of Hurricane Ike. Storms from Ike swept through the area on Sunday, Sept. 14, says the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) (Missouri Difference Sept.19).
Flooding in Brentwood, Mo., after remnants of Hurricane Ike hit the St. Louis area. (Photo provided by the Missouri Credit Union Association)
West Community CU in O'Fallon stepped in to help members, including American Lock and Key in Brentwood. Six feet of flood water submerged everything inside the business' office building, including desks, computers and paper files, and the company's vans and trucks outside. West Community Business Representative Jeff Hinrichs volunteered his personal time to help business owners and staff clean up the mess that Sunday night, hauling boxes and doing anything else needed, said MCUA. "It was great to see that even in the face of adversity, our members had such a great attitude," said Hinrichs. "No one was feeling defeated or ready to give up." The $109 million asset credit union implemented several measures to address members' needs due to storm damage. It is expediting check reorders, helping provide copies of old statements, and processing loan requests quickly to replace lost equipment.

Employees in Galveston face ordeal with humor

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (9/23/08)--Employees of JSC CU’s Galveston, Texas branch laughed when they had to “launder” the credit union’s money last week to get rid of the dead fish odor. JSC CU was hit by Hurricane Ike, which made landfall in the area Sept. 13. Part of the credit union--including its money--was underwater (LoneStar Leaguer Sept. 22). Joetta Petteway, JSC CU branch manager, and assistant branch manager, Lisa Cannon, dressed in rubber boots and gloves to get the money out of the submerged credit union’s vault and ATM. Becky Day, JSC marketing coordinator, told the Texas Credit Union League the money had to be washed, dried with lavender dryer sheets because of the fish odor, and ironed. “We were literally laundering money--no pun intended,” Day said. The lavender aroma “beat the heck out of dead fish odor. We all got a good laugh out of the ordeal,” she added. Petteway has not been able to return to her home on Galveston Island since the storm. She left her home before Hurricane Ike hit to stay with her sister in Texas City. Petteway’s home remained intact after the storm, although houses surrounding hers sustained major damage. Despite not being able to enter her home after Ike, Petteway reported to work Tuesday after the storm at one of JSC’s Houston branch. “This just goes to show the dramatic lengths our people will go to in order to help others in the community,” said league President/CEO Dick Ensweiler. “It’s selfless, heartwarming and an inspiration to all of us in the credit union community.”

Three CUs receive OpSS Council Best Practices awards

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MADISON, Wis. (9/23/08)--Three credit unions were the winners of the fourth annual CUNA Operations, Sales and Service (OpSS) Council’s Best Practices Awards, which recognize innovative solutions that optimize credit union performance. The award winners delivered presentations on their entries during the council’s 11th annual conference, which took place last week in Williamsburg, Va. Mayo Employees FCU, Rochester, Minn., won in the Sales and Service Management category for its Swashbuckler program. The program was created to push positive loan growth and ease the pressure on its members due to the economy. The credit mining initiative prompts lenders to begin a conversation with members about loans and credit card debt they may have at other financial institutions. The credit union offers them the credit union’s lower rates. In the first three months, the program garnered nearly $516,000 in new consumer lending money. Tucson (Ariz.) Old Pueblo CU won in the Branch Design category for its new branch design that reflects the community and the Southwest. Its entrance offers three options--the investment/real estate area, an ATM vestibule and the main branch. The separated areas allow the investment/real estate department to conduct business after regular branch hours for added member convenience. The main branch was designed to feel friendly and inviting, rather than commercial. Its Internet station allows members to conduct online banking or do personal computing. It also features an open kid’s area, and a waiting area designed like a Southwest-style living room. The exit features a “Hero Wall” to honor Tucson citizens who exemplify the community spirit. The environmentally friendly branch realized $3.8 million in new deposits, 56 new checking accounts, and 11 new real estate referrals in the first two months after opening. Financial Partners CU, Downey, Calif., won the Call/Contact Center award category for its POD system. The system reorganized its contact center and broke representatives down into small teams (PODs). The team encourages open communication, forward thinking, sales performance, friendly competition, and cross pollination of best practices to enhance the member experience. Representatives are better prepared to handle member inquiries, resulting in improved service quality and Net Promoter scores. Checking production increased by 40% in one month and transferred calls decreased by 35%. The awards were created to identify, recognize, and share new approaches and solutions with universal application in the credit union movement. Winners were chosen, without regard to credit union asset size, based on strategy, process, application, and results.