Florida Appeals For New Donations After 2nd Hurricane Strikes

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What kind of month has it been in Florida?

Back-to-back hurricanes that have devastated this state have led the Florida Credit Union League to change the name of its disaster relief fund from the Hurricane Charley Relief Fund to just-plain Hurricane Relief Fund. And that was being done at the same time Hurricane Ivan was approaching the state.

While the league was still in the process of raising money for and distributing funds to credit union employees and volunteers who were victimized by Hurricane Charley, which struck the state's west coast and central regions, Hurricane Frances clobbered large portions of the east coast of Florida before again hitting central parts of the state that were still working to recover from the previous hurricane.

In the days after the slow-moving Frances struck, both the league and CUNA Mutual Group were working to assess which credit unions suffered damage. The biggest problem was widespread and long-lasting power outages and an inability for the league to reach many credit unions, due to spotty phone service. Among the confirmed damage reports were Indian River FCU in Vero Beach, Fla., which had minor structural damage to its two offices; St. Lucie Community FCU, Ft. Pierce, which had roof damage; and Goldcoast FCU's main office in has suffered some water intrusion and damage.

Florida league spokesperson Mark Ivester said the state's Foundation had raised more than $100,000 at presstime in the wake of Charley, from which it had made 80 grants to 500 employees and volunteers who needed help. Donations have been made ranging from $100 to $5,000 from across the country. Credit unions apply for funds on behalf of the individuals. On Sept. 8 the FCUL moved to change the name of its relief fund to the Hurricane Relief Fund.

"The grants are for cash, and for most people they are to help out with some of the out-of-pocket expenses," explained Ivester.

Ivester said one unpleasant surprise many Floridians are encountering is the change in insurance deductibles, which were approved by the Florida legislature after strong lobbying by the insurance industry. Deductibles for storm damage now range from 2% to 5% of the damage. People in central Florida who were hit by two separate storms will have two separate deductibles.

"That's going to hit some people hard," noted Ivester.

Meanwhile, in Miramar, Fla., Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union, opened five of its 13 branches and its call center on Labor Day to help members affected by the storm. "We understood that our members had a great need to access their accounts immediately after the storm passed, so we decided to open," said CEO Stephen McGill, who noted it couldn't have been done without employees who volunteered to come in on their day off.

"This was an amazing demonstration of teamwork and I'm proud of each and every employee who stepped up to the plate, especially those who put their own clean-up plans on hold to service our members," McGill said.

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