Credit Unions and NWCUF Provide Disaster Relief for Oregon Ice Storm Victims

More than 100 credit union employees received financial aid through the Northwest Credit Union Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund.

Heavy snowfall and ice caused thousands of trees across the state to fall, damaging power lines, homes, and vehicles.

3/9/2021

During Valentine’s Day weekend last month, Oregon experienced a devastating ice storm that led to the most widespread power outage in the state’s recorded history.

The frigid storm brought uncharacteristically heavy snowfall and ice, causing trees to collapse and inflict damage on thousands of power lines and transformers. More than 330,000 Oregonians were left in the dark for days — some even went weeks without electricity, heat, running water, internet, and cell service.

Credit unions in the region responded quickly to help members affected by the devastation. Within a matter of days, the Maps Credit Union Community Foundation distributed $40,000 to more than 800 credit union members who lost all of their perishable food during the outage. Other credit unions provided similar aid.

The Northwest Credit Union Foundation activated its Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to impacted credit union employees and board members — several suffered significant damage to their homes and loss of perishable food. In total, the Foundation distributed over $83,000 in aid to more than 100 credit union employees.

“Coming on the heels of the devastating wildfires that tore through the Northwest last September, this storm was another heavy blow for Oregonians,” said Sharee Adkins, NWCUF Executive Director. “We’re  humbled to be able to help our credit union family with critical funds contributed by Northwest credit unions, partners, and individual donors.”

For Amanda Triskele, who serves as Assistant Branch Manager at Unitus Community Credit Union, the ice storm couldn’t have come at a worse time. Her family suffers from anxiety and depression, which she said has only worsened due to the pandemic. On top of that, they’d recently experienced a death in the family.

“Typically, when there is a power outage, we manage to take advantage of it by doing things we don’t usually take the time to do when we have the distractions electricity can provide,” Triskele said. “This time was different. There was an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.” 

After being stuck indoors without power for several days, shivering under blankets and eating canned tuna on bread, the ice began to melt, presenting the first opportunity for her family to venture out in search of warm food. Eventually, they made their way to a pet-friendly hotel, cramming as many family members as possible into one room to preserve their finances.

“We were all grateful to be warm and clean again,” Triskele said.

When power finally returned, Triskele had the unfortunate task of disposing the food that they hadn’t been able to salvage, including everything inside their meat freezer, which they’d stocked right before the storm.

She applied for disaster relief funds from NWCUF and was quickly approved, giving her much-needed peace of mind.

“I rarely ask for help and was pleasantly shocked when I received the check,” she said. “NWCUF completely restored the negative impact from the storm. I no longer had to worry about how long it would take me to recover financially or how much interest I would end up having to pay on the credit cards used to book the hotel and pay for the extra food and gas. The help received is more appreciated than I can express.”

Brian Fassett, Senior Training Specialist/LMS Administrator at Advantis Credit Union, said his family didn’t have power for eight days and internet access for more than two weeks, affecting his ability to work from home, and his daughters’ virtual learning activities.

While the power outage was certainly uncomfortable and inconvenient, Fassett said the most devastating consequences of the storm was all the damage inflicted on his property.

“We have almost 20 trees on our property, so there is lots of clean-up to do, and we will need to hire an arborist to do some of the work,” he explained. “We had one tree fall across our back yard and break two of our fences. We had a branch fall through our deck, and a branch fell and damaged our grill. Branches fell and broke the roof of our chicken run.”

Like Triskele, Fassett applied for financial assistance through the Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund.

“I am so grateful we received funds from NWCUF. This allowed us to immediately restock our freezers and fridge once the power came back. I was also able to replace the chicken run rook, and fix both back yard fences myself. I got a chainsaw and cut up the tree myself, as that was a lot cheaper than hiring someone else to do it. I am still working on cleaning up all the debris, and some of the funds will go to paying an arborist for tree work I can’t do.”

Maps Credit Union Assistant Branch Manager, George White, said he wasn’t surprised by the storm by any means but didn’t realize how much ice there’d be. The transformer in front of his house caught fire, sending power surges through his home, and several trees on his property fell.

“Overall I feel that I got lucky; there was no damage to my house. The only thing that we lost was our fridge/freezer and the food that was in it. If it had been just myself and my wife we would have been ok, but since we have our two young adult children living with us, I knew that we needed a fridge right away.”

White explained that he and his wife had been saving up for a much-needed family vacation, but buying a new fridge quickly took priority.

“We didn’t realize how expensive appliances have become. If it wasn’t for the NWCUF and their grant to assist us, we would have had to cancel our vacation plans, which is going to spend time with my wife’s parents. I am so grateful that you helped us. Words can’t describe how much it means to us.”

Maps Community Foundation Executive Director, Kim Hanson, said she feels immense gratitude for the immediate support NWCUF provided to Maps employees affected by the storm.

“The Disaster Relief Fund is helping them to restock food supplies, clean up tree debris, and repair structural damage. What an incredible feeling to have our credit union community collectively lift us up during this challenging time.”

Have a question or comment about this story? Please contact Maija Noll, Development and Program Coordinator for NWCUF.