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A Hurricane Harvey Story: Cornerstone Foundation Helps Karen Colbert
Tuesday, November 21, 2017 6:55 AM

Hurricane Harvey Damage

Karen Colbert was there in the middle of Hurricane Harvey. Her Houston home was flooded with nearly six inches of water, while her garage was deluged by more than two feet of it. A bedroom closet ceiling collapsed as a result of chimney damage, and her clothes and shoes mildewed under murky water. Most of her furniture and appliances were destroyed or damaged, including a freezer, refrigerator, dishwasher, and a sewing machine.

"Seeing all this flooding was unnerving to say the least," said Colbert. "I am still displaced, staying with family, and it is a day-to-day trial for me. Still no repairs have been made to the house, and it is looking like three more months until I may get to go home. I have never been through this before. As a native Houstonian, I have lived through many floods and hurricanes, but I have not had to leave home." 

As you might expect, cleanup expenses grew faster than Colbert could track them. Because much of her belongings were destroyed and her home was deemed unlivable until repairs could be made, the personal items that survived the flooding had to go into two storage units—a steep $300 layout every month.

To help with expenses, Colbert applied for a Cornerstone Foundation Phase I disaster relief grant, and has also applied for a Phase II disaster relief grant to help with additional expenses.

"I am asking for a Phase II grant, for any help is so wonderful," Colbert said. "I used the first grant to replace some clothes, shoes, and personal items. I feel like I am living out of my car."

So far, the damage estimate is $82,000, not including the roof, which the insurance company does not want to cover. Since no repairs can be made until the roof is fixed, Colbert's move back home could be further delayed.

Colbert works as a loan officer for Port of Houston Credit Union, and her travel to work is now 34 miles each way. She's been with the credit union for almost five years, and she has 30 years of credit union history, so she's seen a lot. And while her personal recovery has been difficult, she knows well that she's far from the only one.

"As the loan officer I have had so many more heartfelt stories worse than mine," Colbert said. "We were making more than 35 emergency loans per day and many gap claims and flooded vehicle loans. It is quite sad."

The Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation and CUAid have raised $1,708,428 for disaster relief, and the Foundation issued 1,303 Phase I grants totaling $1,173,005 to credit union employees and volunteers. Now the grant process is entering Phase II; however, the amounts of the individual grants (up to $5,000) will depend on the total disaster relief funds available to those who apply. Simple math tells us that the funds available now for Phase II grants will fall short.

That's why the Foundation is asking for your support to help us help credit union staff and volunteers who continue to need assistance for their recovery efforts. The Foundation's goal is to raise a minimum of $1 million before Dec. 31 in order to adequately serve Phase II needs.

“Just like our credit union and other credit unions are there for our members, the Foundation is there for our employees and volunteers, and this was exemplified during Hurricane Harvey," said Shawn Bailey, CEO of AMOCO Federal Credit Union, who donated $25,000 to the relief effort. "Just like other first responders, credit union employees and volunteers were at their credit unions to assist members with their financial needs during this difficult time. The Foundation was also there ensuring that those employees and volunteers who were impacted would receive assistance as well.”

Please help us continue spreading the “people helping people” philosophy by donating to the Harvey Relief Fund. Thank you for your continued generosity. If you have any questions, please contact Foundation Executive Director Courtney Moran at cmoran@cscuf.coop or 469-385-6448.