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Foundation Reflects on Recovery of Those Affected by Hurricane Harvey
Thursday, December 6, 2018 6:55 AM

Thankfully, the Atlantic Hurricane Season ended Nov. 30, and coastal residents now have a respite from any hurricane or tropical storm threats. The Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation checked in with credit union volunteers and staff who received disaster relief grants to help cover the wind, rain, and flood damage sustained in 2017's Hurricane Harvey. Following are the stories of Cary Mathis, Fran Lovelace, and Kristen Merchant.

Teller Cary Mathis

Cary Mathis
Damage done to Foundation grant recipient Cary Mathis’ home.

“Fortunately, all our repairs have been completed, and we are mostly back to pre-Harvey, though we do find an occasional hiccup that Harvey left for us,” said Cary Mathis, teller at NavyArmy Community Credit Union based in Corpus Christi.

Mathis said they had been off for weeks and bore the cost of displacement. They were not able to cook or do normal daily activities, and all of it strained the family’s finances.

“When the offer of the Cornerstone Grant was offered it was a relief beyond any words,” said Mathis. “These funds gave us the ability to breathe when we were beginning to lose hope. We were more fortunate than many people in the hurricanes path, but it was still a traumatic learning experience. The Cornerstone grant was a blessing that gave me the hope and the ability to know that I would be able to keep moving forward in the aftermath of Harvey.”

“The Cornerstone Foundation was such a blessing to my family after the hurricane, and it helped to restore our faith that there is still good out in the world,” Mathis added. “Harvey changed everybody that he impacted whether directly or after the storm. Our community has grown stronger as we have, but there are many wounds that will take a long time to heal.”

Cary Mathis home repairs
Repairs are being made to Cary Mathis’ home after Hurricane Harvey, thanks to grant funds received from Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation.
Cary Mathis debris
Debris from damage done to Foundation grant recipient Cary Mathis’ home.

Compliance Officer Fran Lovelace

Fran Lovelace flooding
Flooding from Hurricane Harvey at the home of Foundation grant recipient Fran Lovelace.

“All repairs on my house are complete,” said Fran Lovelace, compliance officer at 5Point Credit Union in Nederland, Texas. “I did have flood insurance, but a lot of people did not.”

Lovelace said the grant she received from the Foundation helped with food and the cost of living during the most difficult time.

“We used some of the money to pay the contractors for removing the carpet and sheetrock from our house,” Lovelace said. “It was just the most amazing gift to receive. It wasn’t expected, and it made our family so happy during a very rough time.”

Fran Lovelace repairs
Repairs being made in the home of Fran Lovelace, thanks to grant funds received from the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation.
Fran Lovelace repairs
Repairs being made in the home of Fran Lovelace, thanks to grant funds received from Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation.

Loan Processor Kristen Merchant

“After Harvey hit, my parents thankfully had a camper they had just purchased,” said Kristen Merchant, loan processor at Chocolate Bayou Federal Credit Union. “We were able to move the camper out of the flood waters to my uncle’s house. We stayed in the camper during the storm and during all the repairs. Thankfully, since we had the camper we didn’t have to find a hotel or live in the house while doing the repairs.”

“About 80 days after the storm hit we, were able to move back into the house,” Merchant said. “I am very grateful, because I know there are still people out there today that are fixing their homes. Our family and friends came together and pieced our house back and kept us all strong during the process. Thanks to the help and generosity of others, we are 100 percent.”

Chocolate Bayou has locations in Alvin and Pearland. Like all who experienced the storms and flooding in the Texas coastal areas, the devastation affected them in many very personal and unexpected ways.

“I have never owned a home before, so all I knew was my bedroom as my own, but when the storm hit we were only able to grab a few things and get out before the water came in,” Merchant said. “I am sort of a pack rat, the smallest things I would save that had the biggest memories to me were all washed away with the storm. With the grant money I was able to get my room back, my space—sort of like my identity. A comfortable bed that I had gone without for those 80 days seems like heaven after sleeping on a bunk bed in the back of a camper. An actual dresser to put my clothes in instead of a small box in the corner. And as odd as it may sound, a nightstand to just put my things on.

“Living in an 8 x 8 room in the back of camper makes you appreciate all the things we take for granted,” Merchant said. “Thanks to the Foundation grant, while my parents spent most of their savings on the major repairs, such as walls and floors, I was able to help by filling my space with the things that had been taken by the flood waters. Without hesitation, my credit union family stepped up and was there for me.”

Kristen Merchant flooding
Flooding from Hurricane Harvey at the home of Foundation grant recipient Kristen Merchant.
Kristen Mercant room
Hurricane Harvey victim Kristen Merchant is able to get her room back in order, thanks to grant funds she received from the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation.

"It's incredible that people should still be in a recovery phase more than a year after Hurricane Harvey," said Foundation Executive Director Courtney Moran. "But that's the nature of unexpected natural disasters. They're difficult, if not impossible, to plan for. The Foundation is fortunate to receive generous contributions throughout the year from caring credit union supporters, which enables us to provide disaster relief grants to affected credit union staff and volunteers when needed."

While you can donate to the Foundation at any time, when planning your budgets for 2019, please remember to donate a portion of your funds and/or Cornerstone Credit Union League dues to the Foundation.