Hurricane Lessons: For 1 Florida CU, It's Meant Setting Up Child Care

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Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union knew it needed to help its employees with child care after the 2004 hurricane season when four storms hit the state.

Employees were distracted at work last year, single parents had come in late, and one employee couldn't afford to come into work at all, according to AVP-Human Resources Susan McBride. "It's a tough situation," she said.

This year, EFFCU completed its plans for "Hurricane Day Camp" a week before Hurricane Katrina rolled across South Florida Aug. 25 on its way to smashing into the Gulf Coast. "Just in the nick of time," said McBride.

After the 2004 season, the $1.8-billion CU's Disaster Recovery Task Force had identified childcare during emergencies as a priority. EFFCU had stayed open during previous emergencies, but schools had closed, creating the problem of where to take employees' children. EFFCU had worked with a local day care operator, Woodland Camp, for several years and was comfortable with their staff and program. In summertime, employees' kids are picked up at the credit union and returned at the end of the day. McBride said EFFCU had the room to house Hurricane Day Camp and decided to cover the costs.

EFFCU has a very large conference room and a cafeteria that can seat 150 people. The conference room is titled the "Historical Room" due to its collection of old Eastern Airlines memorabilia, the CU's original sponsor, and was selected as the day camp location. Parents could visit their kids for lunch but couldn't take them out of the area in order to maintain the work environment. Woodland Camp sent counselors to EFFCU to teach and lead games for the kids. McBride said that EFFCU placed one CU employee with the day camp so counselors wouldn't be put in a bad spot regarding parents who lingered a little too long at the camp.

About 45 children attended Hurricane Camp and McBride said she anticipates a larger turnout next time, as the first camp had no advertising. McBride said after ensuring child safety, the greatest benefit was maintaining employee productivity at the credit union, even during a hurricane. "Employees come to work and they're focused because their kids are OK."

McBride said she and CU employees were very pleased with Hurricane Day Camp, calling it "relatively inexpensive," but well worth it considering the benefit to employees and their children. She said Hurricane Day Camp is part of EFFCU's "exceptional work experience". McBride said she recommends credit unions contact a local YMCA or certified day care facility to start their own emergency daycare program.

EFFCU serves 204,000 members.

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