The Great Credit Union Cash Airlift

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the spirit of credit union cooperation was embodied in the actions of Texas Dow Employees CU's efforts to aid DOW Louisiana FCU.

 
 

Below are personal accounts, courtesy of Jeff Hendrickson, chief executive of DOW Louisiana FCU, and Ed Speed, chief executive of Texas DOW Employees CU, describing how their two credit unions cooperated to deliver much needed cash to people in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
 

Part One - From Jeff Hendrickson, chief executive of DOW Louisiana Federal Credit Union:

"During the many problems in our area created by Hurricane Katrina, one of them was that much of the city of Baton Rouge was operating on a cash basis-due to downed and jammed telecommunications lines. The ATM, credit card, and debit card networks were overwhelmed, and the doubling of our population overnight put a huge burden on local financial institutions.

"On Friday afternoon we learned that our Fed shipment of money that was promised to us was not coming. Yet we had to get through our extended hours of service on Saturday. Plus we wanted to be open on Monday (Labor Day) to help out as many folks as possible.

"We tried working with Loomis and the Fed but were getting nowhere.

"Most banks and credit unions in the area were rationing money or closing their doors because it was difficult to get the Fed to bring sufficient funds.

"We needed to contact a large enough credit union in the immediate area that could assist us with money.

"I told our senior management-contact Texas Dow Employees CU. I had gone to CUES Management School with Carol Stryker, TDECU's chief investment officer, and knew that if she found out we were in trouble, she would do everything to help.

"When the folks at TDECU found out we needed money, their entire senior management leaped to action. Driving the much-needed funds to us was not viable because of the difficulties involved with getting through the state border area. As luck would have it, TDECU had a chief executive, Ed Speed, who was a pilot. Further, Ed was not even supposed to be at the credit union; he was to have already left the office. Ed just happened to look down at the phone and answer one last voice mail message before he left for the day. That voice mail message was ours asking for assistance.

"Ed scrapped all his plans for the evening and flew the money to us on his personal plane.

"We had called TDECU at 2:00 p.m. By 8:00 p.m. Ed was landing in Baton Rouge on an errand of mercy. Although this is the quick version of it, there are many more interesting twists and turns because of the timing and how other things unfolded throughout the day.

"Who knew that the first credit union we would call would have a CEO for a pilot who would be so willing to help, that they took the money from wherever they could in their own credit union just to help us?

"Because of what TDECU did for us, we were able to keep our doors open for more hours than we had planned and give cash to folks who came to us with nothing. People were able to eat, buy gas, and get by because of the response from TDECU. We can't say enough how we appreciate them."

Part Two - From Ed Speed, chief executive of Texas DOW Employees Credit Union:

"On Friday afternoon (9/2/2005) Texas DOW Employees CU in Lake Jackson, Texas, received an urgent cell phone call from Jeff Hendrickson, the CEO of DOW Louisiana FCU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"The hundreds of thousands of refugees from the New Orleans and coastal areas who were arriving in the Baton Rouge area had immediately started overloading the entire financial services capacity of Baton Rouge. One area of critical need was cash-regular cash money.

"Although much of Baton Rouge was operational, the entire telephone grid was either damaged or overloaded with attempted calls. As a result, POS terminals, credit card terminals, and ATMs-the great majority of which use dial-up connections-were rendered useless. Because of this, merchants, restaurants, motels, grocery stores, pharmacies began requiring cold hard cash.

"This even became a problem for people who had money in accounts, and many more, including refugees who were being issued paper checks.

"DOW Louisiana FCU was becoming desperately short on cash. They wanted to stay open throughout the Labor Day weekend, but repeated calls for cash deliveries never arrived and none were expected until this coming Wednesday. Local banks started shutting down early Friday as they ran out of cash.

"Jeff Hendrickson, DOW Louisiana FCU's chief executive, was determined to stay in service. Jeff called us at 1:56 p.m. on Friday asking us to sell them desperately needed cash. Jeff said that without more cash, people coming to his credit union would not be able to get food, shelter, clothing, and medicine. Jeff said he would do whatever it took-even drive to Lake Jackson if we could find cash for him. He said that $500,000 to $600,000 would hold them until cash shipments arrived on Tuesday.

"I marshaled our senior staff and within 15 minutes had a full count of cash on hand from all branches. Lance Wortham, our commercial vice presidents, called his contact at 1st National Bank and got a commitment of $200,000 if we needed more.

"Less than 25 minutes after Jeff had called we were able to call him back with a commitment to deliver $600,000 in cash immediately. My thanks to Steph, Vickey and Kay for their help.

"Within 90 minutes the needed cash ($600,000) had been brought in, counted and bagged. (It was now 3:30 p.m. Friday).

"The problem was going to be the delivery.

"First, we could tell from their voices that they were bone tired and in no shape to drive anywhere. Our driving the cash to Baton Rouge was going to be problematic because Janice Arizmendi, our chief of staff, had contacted the Texas DPS and had been told that individual relief efforts were being turned away at the state border. Without special permission we would be turned back and never get the cash to the credit union.

"That left one viable solution: fly the cash to them.

"I made the decision that I would fly my plane to Baton Rouge that afternoon. Lance Wortham would go with me.

"By 4:00 p.m., less than 2 hours after the initial call, we had the plane loaded. We had to wait about an hour for some local weather to clear. We were able to go "wheels up" right at 5:00 p.m.

"The flight to Baton Rouge took about two hours. When the FAA Houston Control Center handed us off to Baton Rough Approach Control we immediately heard the frenzied air traffic control communications.

"We came to find out that the Baton Rouge airport had become the staging area for all aviation rescue and relief efforts. This was the major staging and refueling point for all of the helicopters you have seen on TV and all of the large supply aircraft. In addition, the airport was the staging area for relief supplies coming in and for flying out refugees who were arriving on buses. We actually saw refugees being off-loaded from buses onto aircraft.

"As we approached the Baton Rouge airport our air traffic controllers told us to expect 'extended vectors for sequencing.' I knew we were in for some delays getting in. The controllers eventually brought us in, but only after about 45 minutes of practicing 360 degree holding turns. (Lance was very impressed!!)

"Until the day I die I will never forget the words of the Baton Rouge tower controller: 'November-Eight-Four-Three-Five Foxtrot (N8435F), you are cleared to land Runway Four-Right (4R), straight in approach… and Three Five Foxtrot, I need you to go as fast as you can!'"

"My response was: 'Roger, three-five-foxtrot is cleared to land, straight in approach, runway three-five-right, full power, full speed!'"

"We touched done about 8:00 p.m.; six hours after the initial call.

"We were met by the CEO Jeff Hendrickson, his chief operating officer, Todd Zirkle, and armed security from the local sheriff's department who came out to the plane to meet us.

"We 'convoyed' the $600,000 to the DOW Louisiana FCU main branch where the vault staff was waiting to take the cash. In one of the attached pictures one can see that the clock in the vault reads about 8:30 p.m. Six and a half hours start to finish.

"We exchanged the cash for a check, had a quick meal and were escorted back to the airport.

"Lance and I touched down back in Lake Jackson about 1:45 a.m., tired but exhilarated. [We treated ourselves to some comfort food at IHOP!]

"If there is a hero here it has to be Jeff Hendrickson, chief executive of DOW Louisiana FCU. He was determined that his credit union would not, under any circumstances, fail people in need. And, in a way that really humbled me. Jeff said: 'I knew if I called upon another credit union, if I relied on our Movement, I knew someone would come through for us. I just knew it. This is who we are. This is what we do.'"

"When faced with that type of leadership, determination and faith, I knew we here at TDECU had to deliver for him. Our TDECU team came through and my airplane performed well.

"It all came together."

 

 

 

 

Sept. 5, 2005


Comments

 
 
 
  • Way to go!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • A great "feel good" story!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • We talk about people helping people everyday but what a day for these two CUs who proved our philosophy works. Thanks for sharing the stories and to both CUs for literally going the extra mile(s) to help. Dennis D. Degenhardt President/CEO Glacier Hills CU
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • this is what Credit Union's are all about and one of their finest hours....great story
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • This amazing story is one of the reasons we're so much different from banks! Lois Weathers, One Source FCU, El Paso,TX
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • This is a fantastic story. Thank you for sharing it. It truly speaks to the dedication of credit union personnel on behalf of their members. Rhonda Kindle Service Plus Credit Union Riverside, CA
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Talk about a cooperative effort! Wonderful story. Donna Wilkerson, Fidelity IFS, Maitland, FL
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • What a fantastic story. It brought tears! Too bad it didn't get the media attention it deserves. Bob Solomon-Profiles
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • What a wonderful article - it brought tears to my eyes - I'm so proud to be part of this great big credit union family! Sue Olmstead,SFCU,Sidney,NY
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • What a wonderful article - it brought tears to my eyes - I'm so proud to be part of this great big credit union family! Sue Olmstead,SFCU,Sidney,NY
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • that was really amazing b/c i am a employee at tdecu!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Loved it!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • People really do make the difference. Service excellance that exceeds all expectations. Simply an outstanding and unsellfish human effort. Joe Varitek-FiSERV
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • An outstanding effort by both sides and all in the name of "people helping people"
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • This was almost a tear jerker! Absolutely, the best of humanity! I think Ed Speed and Jeff Hendrickson deserve a medal for that amazing response to a dire situation.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Ed Speed is a great guy. from a former Peer of his
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Bravo to the unseen heros. Tommy Misys LA Pro
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • There is a God!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Excellent article - a true account of caring individuals going the extra mile even in the riskiest of times. I'm proud to be associated with a CUSO and thankful that credit unions can call on each other to help and be helped.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • That's true teamwork in action!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Credit Union philosophy at work.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • It's good to know there are good hearted people in the world!!! It's inspiring!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • what a wonderful story! The company I work for is partnered with credit unions in many states. This affirms our beliefs in credit unions!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Great example of the real story of our country and the credit union movement in particular. Thanks for sharing. George Shipman C.U. Consultant California
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Excellent article. Our community always comes together, but even more so in time of need. Perhaps I can now convince our CEO to put a plane in our disaster recovery budget!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Ed was an angel sent to help...we all need to do our part.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • This article is just one of the many reasons why Wallee and I are proud to be working with the credit union industry and proud to be living in the Houston area where this is just one more example of the true meaning of 'The Spirit of Texas'. Our thanks and gratitude to everyone at Dow Louisiana FCU and Texas Dow Employees CU. Suzanne Wright,President The Wright Consultants The Woodlands, TX
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • The "CU CAN Do! Attitude" amply illustrated. Preston F. Kirk, APR, Kirk Public Relations, Austin (Agency for John M. Floyd & Associates, Houston.)
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Excellent!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Utterly fantastic, President Bush should find out about this story and others like it! Hats off to all the people involved in the transaction that day and all the people they helped...
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • awesome! Is there anything we can do? 2 great teams that really care!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • What a great TEAM effort. Thanks for sharing.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • God really does work in mysterious ways!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Another difference between banks and credit unions and the commitment to our members. Thanks.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • IT'S GREAT TO HEAR THAT THERE ARE THE SPECIAL PEOPLE WHO CARE ENOUGH TO GO OUT OF THEIR WAY TO HELP THOSE IN NEED.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • This is exactly what our motto "People Helping People" is all about. Cudos to TDECU for stepping up to the plate and making a homerun! Cudos to you for sharing the story.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Inspiring. Kudos to the two credit unions and your publication for sharing the story.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • This is the type of thing the "big" media never recognizes. All they want is the negative stuff. Too bad.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Great teamwork & service to the community!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • I cried. This is story has God written in every line!!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Great Story! It brought tears to my eyes. It should serve as motivation for all of us to "do something". R. Wickard, Wachovia Securities
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • This is a great story. I am Credit Union employee and am proud that a Credit Union took this task in hand and did a great job in taking care of those in need
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Great job and congratulations to all of you! You make us proud! Dee Edie
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Way to go Credit Unions!!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Great, great article! This story should be a case study for our industry--taught in schools.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Wow! Tears in my eyes and pride in my heart. Way to go credit union people!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Outstanding, a real feel good story that defines what credit union are people helping people. John Coleman ILWU credit union.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Truly amazing and what a blessing both those credit unions were to so many in need. I love CU's!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Great Story. Ed gets some hero points, too!
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • Making a difference..........
    Anonymous