Woodco Picks Up Pieces After Tornado

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WALBRIDGE, Ohio — When the CEO of Woodco FCU began digging through the rubble in her office following a tornado that destroyed the CU last week, she found all of the papers on her desk just as she left them.

"There was a lot of glass from windows exploding and a lot of debris, but my desk and what I was working on was pretty much untouched," said Juanita Zunk from Woodco's temporary location at CanDo Credit Union here. "My backup tape appears to be perfectly fine and we are optimistic that we will recover everything. Our cash is intact. Everything considered, it's a miracle."

The one-branch, $9-million credit union is located within Lake High School in nearby Millbury, and both are believed to be total losses. While Zunk said no decision has been made by school officials, she believes the high school, where she rented space, will be bulldozed.

"The next thing for us to do is to find a permanent location, but I don't want to make a hasty decision," said Zunk, who expected WCU to be operating at CanDo by the middle of last week when she spoke to Credit Union Journal at press time. "(CanDo CEO) Mark Sommer has been wonderful, as have all his staff. In fact the support we have been getting from nearby credit unions and the community has been outstanding."

CanDo is also a one-branch credit union, about the same asset size as Woodco. Sommer said WCU will serve its members at an unused teller window and through its second drive-through terminal. "The rest of their staff have set up in our conference room," Sommer said.

Woodco notified members via its website, and through emergency numbers, that all services are intact and withdrawals can be made through the ATM, and via debit and credit cards. Sommer said WCU will leverage some of CanDo's data processing equipment and bring in some new hardware.

While no members of Woodco's staff were injured or lost their lives, WCU's outsourced IT staff may lose one of its employees, Zunk said. "Ryan Walters is fighting for his life with a skull fracture," Zunk said. "He also lost his wife and his son."

Initial estimates for the storm's total damage have been as high as $100 million. It leveled 50 homes and killed seven. Zunk said she is fortunate her two daughters did not become victims of the twister. "I was asleep last Saturday night and I got a call from one of my daughters who was hysterical. She said that she and her sister had just left the car in the middle of the road and were running from the tornado. She told me they were headed to a home and hoped the owner would let them in.

Zunk said she heard the cell phone connection break up, then it came back, and she heard people screaming and a man calling to her daughters to come inside. "When I finally was able to call her back 10 minutes later, I learned my daughters were OK. They got to the basement, and while the home's second story was removed, no one was harmed."

Zunk said it was a life-changing event. "What happened at the credit union is devastating, and we are working to restore all of our services to our members. But what could have happened to my daughters is much worse."

CanDo's Sommer feels fortunate that his credit union was spared. "You see this all the time in Kansas and Oklahoma. But you don't really get the picture until it hits close to home. Woodco is two miles from my office and they are totally destroyed. It's terrible."

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