Credit Unions Help South Albany High Rebuild After Arson

Before dawn on April 1, a fire — allegedly an act of arson — engulfed the building that housed South Albany High School’s cafeteria and band building, and the district’s primary kitchen. It was a devastating blow.

The kitchen made an estimated 80,000 meals per month for students throughout the region, many from low-income families who rely on the reduced-cost or free school lunches. Losses in the band facility included instruments, choir facilities, uniforms and more.

Isaac Andrew, South Albany High’s band director, said the band facility was more than a structure. “More than just a building or classrooms, the band and choir rooms are like a second home for many students,” he said. “Many memories are made there each year and we teach and learn much more than just how to play and sing and read notes.”

Northwest credit unions leaped into action, together with many other members of the community. The day after the fire they were at the site learning how they could best support the school and the district. And in the weeks since they have contributed funds, volunteer hours, and their community reach to help the school and the district recover.

“The local credit unions have been extremely supportive of SAHS during this rebuild effort,” said Aimee Addison, development director for the Albany Public Schools Foundation. “In addition to incredibly generous financial support, credit unions have pitched in to help our entire school district. At our recent iCelebrate Kids Benefit Gala, which raised funds for the fine and performing arts, music and science for all 20 of the Albany Public Schools, we had a fabulous group of ten credit union volunteers.”

Addison said she especially appreciated the direct support from Red Canoe Credit Union, Central Willamette Community Credit Union, Linn-Co Federal Credit Union, SELCO Community Credit Union and Oregon State Credit Union, as well as the NWCUA and NWCUF.

“As of May 15, over $155,000 has been raised specifically for the SAHS Fire Relief Fund,” she said. “The Albany Public Schools Foundation and SAHS are grateful for this overwhelming support.”

Stacie Wyss-Schoenborn, President and CEO of Willamette Community Credit Union, said that she was proud of both her credit union and the credit union movement for their response. “As a financial institution based here in Albany it’s CWCCU’s pleasure to give of our time and resources to causes which matter and improve our community, particularly at times of crisis,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see credit unions from across the two states come together and demonstrate the ‘people helping people’ philosophy. I was particularly proud of the credit union community whom had a physical representation in the Albany area. We immediately began providing support and showcased our cooperative spirit.”

The Northwest Credit Union Foundation (NWCUF) coordinated the regional credit union response. “The tragic loss at South Albany High School wasn’t just a school building, it was a place that fed, educated, and inspired our children,” said Jamie Dedmon, managing director of the NWCUF. “Credit unions are part of the fabric of our communities, woven together with our schools, businesses, and community organizations. We didn’t just see the loss, we felt it, so we were compelled to respond.”

In addition to the collective impact through the NWCUF, a number of credit unions offered their support directly to the school. In total, credit unions donated over $12,000 to the rebuilding effort.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.

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