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Credit Unions Aid Community Following Earthquake

RIDGECREST, CA — Credit unions operating in the greater Ridgecrest, CA vicinity remained busy on Monday and Tuesday as they gauged the destructive aftermath of two huge earthquakes and responded to members and residents in need.

It wasn’t immediately clear if all credit unions in the region had members affected by the 6.4 and 7.1-magnitude tremors on July 4 and 5. But by the weekend, Desert Valleys FCU—one of two main credit unions serving the broader area out of 10 that are locally headquartered within Inyo and Kern counties—had already sprang into action.

The credit union’s Desert Valleys Employee Foundation was activated to receive donations from those in the credit union system and local community who feel compelled to contribute, with funds going directly to individuals and families who need help the most.

Both earthquakes and dozens of sizeable aftershocks heavily impacted nearby Trona, CA, although places such as Lone Pine, Inyokern, California City, and Boron weren’t immune from the disaster’s path. The Ridgecrest area is in California’s “high desert” region about 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Desert Valleys FCU CEO Eric Bruen said those suffering the most are residents and credit union members living in modular and manufactured homes where foundations or building strength was compromised. Some families have no access to electricity, natural gas or running water and are camping in remote areas with limited supplies. First aid, food, water and other living/cooking resources are pouring in from local agencies and organizations.

“The credit union itself is good—we’re up and running at full strength,” Bruen said. “But the bottom line is, we have members and non-members that were impacted. Our mission is to serve our community, especially in times like this.”

Desert Valleys is also offering a $1,000 loan for 90 days at 5-percent interest (and a one-payment option)—short-term assistance for members to purchase groceries, medicine, offset other costs, and make their homes are safe for living while waiting for insurance monies. By Monday evening, nearly 30 members had applied for the loan. The credit union expects more applicants in the coming days.

The credit union will also be sending its mobile branch to Trona every day to serve members who need on-the-spot services, and it will also haul supplies to local residents when possible. The foundation’s contributions will be used toward grants for homeowners who need significant repairs and other assistance.

The city’s other main credit union is AltaOne FCU, headquartered a couple of miles down the main thoroughfare. As soon as the magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit, the credit union’s advance team comprised of CEO Pam Easley and the senior management team went into action to ensure key systems and facilities were sound, and that communications to the community and credit union employees were prepared and disseminated swiftly. They did the same after the magnitude 7.1 quake hit a day later.

“We truly had heroes during this time,” Easley said, “We accounted for our employees quickly, despite the holiday, identifying those who had special needs or were hardest hit.”

The credit union’s facilities teams inspected the buildings while the credit union’s information-technology teams tested systems and networks for soundness to ensure that operations could continue the next business day. Credit union members were welcomed Saturday morning after volunteer staff came in to clean up minor breakage and debris, while ensuring the branch was safe to conduct business.

Other locally headquartered credit unions serving nearly 315,000 members in Kern and Inyo counties are Bakersfield City Employees, Edwards, Espeeco, High Sierra, Kern Schools, Mojave Plant Employees, Safe 1, and Strata. Some members live more regionally than locally and may be affected depending on their proximity to the earthquakes.

Even the largest credit union in the United States—Navy FCU—serves many members in the Ridgecrest region. Many of them work at the naval weapons station, which is one site maintaining the U.S. Navy’s research, development and testing of weapons systems for warfighter jets.

Bruen added that money donations go a long way (see web link above). “If you talk to anybody in Ridgecrest, you’ll hear about more than just the internal damage on their homes,” he said. “When you get hit twice like we did, and with the number of aftershocks that kept coming, it hits people emotionally. We want to get these people back to as much of a normal life as possible.”

The California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues will be monitoring the situation in the coming days as local credit unions continue serving their members.

Desert Valleys FCU is sending its mobile branch to Trona, CA every day to serve members who need on-the-spot services after being impacted by recent earthquakes.


About Desert Valleys Federal Credit Union

Desert Valleys Federal Credit Union opened on July 11, 1946 with a small branch in the desert community of Trona, CA to provide the plant workers of American Potash Chemical Company a place to cash their payroll checks. After over 50 years of service to the Trona community, in May 1999, we expanded our field of membership to include the neighboring communities of Ridgecrest, California City, Boron, Lone Pine, Bishop, and Lake Isabella. Additionally, we opened our second branch location in Ridgecrest in 1999 on Balsam Street. This allowed us to serve many of our current members and open our doors to many new ones.


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