Following Earthquakes, CUs Assess Damage, Offer Help to Members

RIDGECREST, Calif.–Credit unions in this high desert region northeast of Los Angeles continue to assess damage, especially to members, in the wake of two strong earthquakes here. At least two CUs have announced steps to help members. No damage to credit union facilities has been reported. 

According to the California and Nevada leagues, among the most active CUs in responding to the community has been Desert Valleys FCU, which has activated its Desert Valleys Employee Foundation to receive donations that in turn will be directed to those individuals and families who need help the most.

Desert Valleys mobile branch

Desert Valleys FCU's mobile branch.

Desert Valleys FCU CEO Eric Bruen told the leagues those suffering the most are residents and credit union members living in modular and manufactured homes where foundations or building strength was compromised. Some families have no access to electricity, natural gas or running water and are camping in remote areas with limited supplies, the league reported. First aid, food, water and other living/cooking resources have been arriving from relief agencies and organizations.

“The credit union itself is good—we’re up and running at full strength,” Bruen told the leagues. “But the bottom line is, we have members and non-members that were impacted. Our mission is to serve our community, especially in times like this.”

$1,000 Loan

In response to the quakes, Desert Valleys is also offering a $1,000 loan for 90 days at 5% interest, along with a one-payment option, to provide short-term assistance for members to purchase groceries, medicine, offset other costs, and make their homes are safe for living while waiting for insurance monies. By Monday evening after the two weekend earthquakes, nearly 30 members had applied for the loan, and the credit union expects more applicants in the coming days, the league reported. 

The credit union will also be sending its mobile branch to Trona, Calif. every day to serve members who need on-the-spot services, and it will also haul supplies to local residents when possible. The foundation’s contributions will be used toward grants for homeowners who need significant repairs and other assistance, the league said. 

AltaOne Takes Steps

Meanwhile, AltaOne FCU, which is also headquartered in the region, reported that as soon as the first  magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit, its advance team–comprised of CEO Pam Easley and the senior management team “went into action to ensure key systems and facilities were sound, and that communications to the community and credit union employees were prepared and disseminated swiftly.”

AltaOne responded in the same way when the magnitude 7.1 quake hit one day later, according to the league.

"We truly had heroes during this time," Easley told the CCUL, “We accounted for our employees quickly, despite the holiday, identifying those who had special needs or were hardest hit." 

The league reported the credit union's facilities teams inspected the buildings while the credit union's information-technology teams tested systems and networks for soundness to ensure that operations could continue the next business day. 

“Credit union members were welcomed Saturday morning after volunteer staff came in to clean up minor breakage and debris, while ensuring the branch was safe to conduct business,” the league said.

Other CUs in Region

Other credit unions in the region serve nearly 315,000 members in Kern and Inyo counties are Bakersfield City Employees, Edwards, Espeeco, High Sierra, Kern Schools, Mojave Plant Employees, Safe 1, and Strata, the league reported. Navy FCU also serves many members in the Ridgecrest region who work at the naval weapons station.

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