Three Months after Maria, Spirit of BCU Employees in Puerto Rico Continues to Inspire
April 1, 2018
In the face of the most devastating natural disaster in the Credit Union’s 36 year history, an inspirational story of the human spirit would emerge on the shoulders of an incredible employee culture.
Just weeks after the Credit Union sadly announced the passing of founding father Sam O’Kelly, the BCU organization stepped up in an unprecedented display of grit and resilience to help colleagues and members in Puerto Rico in the wake of Maria. “It’s exactly what Sam’s vision for the credit union was founded upon,” said BCU President and CEO Mike Valentine. “Tirelessly working to take care of our members, our partners – and each other – like family.”
As the island braced for impact, the Credit Union immediately activated disaster relief assistance, waiving ATM and account fees, providing access to emergency loans and automatically deferring loan repayments for ninety days. “Ensuring the safety and well-being of all our employees and almost 30,000 members on the island was the number one priority,” said Valentine.
In a digital age of constant connectivity, the silence the BCU Family was plunged into in the days following Maria was deafening. “It was during those earliest and most difficult hours we did what BCU does best,” said BCU EVP, Tom Moore. “We came together and rose to the challenge, overcoming every obstacle we were faced with.”
Within days, the Credit Union had established basic means of communication. Within weeks, its’ full branch and ATM network was operational. An employee relief fund was quickly established and the Credit Union stopped at nothing to ensure every BCU employee on the island had access to generator power for their homes. “Providing generator power meant flying equipment from the main land via private charter and personally delivering it to employees’ homes in Puerto Rico,” said Moore. “And that’s exactly what we did.”
One BCU employee, Edwin Plaza, documented his experiences in the hours leading up to Maria’s landfall and the days that followed in an emotional video that has since gone viral. In the midst of harrowing scenes most can only imagine, a brave and powerful message emerged from his narrative: “We are strong, and we will rebuild this.”
It’s a message BCU employees hold dear.
In less than thirty days, the BCU Employee Relief Fund raised more than $40,000 through personal employee donations and contributions from the Credit Union’s company partners. The Credit Union quickly stepped in to match the funds, going on to distribute close to $100,000 in assistance to employees on the island to recover and rebuild.
The Credit Union’s annual Angel Tree of Giving also held very special meaning this holiday season, with tags on this year’s tree bearing the name of BCU employees and their families on the island. “It’s a small, but incredibly personal way to let our team in Puerto Rico know that we continue to be on this journey with them long after the storm has passed,” said Valentine.