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Joplin Credit Unions Rebuild One Year After Tornado

One year after an EF-5 tornado leveled her home to its foundation, Joplin Metro Credit Union President Cindy Atteberry joined a procession of 6,000 for a commemorative Walk of Unity. Joplin Metro along with BluCurrent Credit Union, District 7 Highway Credit Union and Great Plains Federal Credit Union have focused their efforts on rebuilding their credit unions and the community since a deadly tornado struck down on May 22, 2011.
“I am so proud of my staff and my town for the rebuilding efforts we have accomplished this past year,” says Atteberry. “We have set an example for other communities in distress that things are possible, you can rebuild and you can come back.”

Credit unions in Missouri and beyond are credited with helping jump-start financial support for Joplin residents. The Missouri Credit Union Charitable Foundation (MCUCF), in partnership with the National Credit Union Foundation, initiated a CUAid call for support collecting $115,594 from credit unions and business partners to aid tornado victims. The Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) presented a $10,000 donation to kick off fundraising efforts. MCUCF distributed grants in amounts up to $500 to 322 adults, 106 children, eight credit union employees and one volunteer.

“Some of our members used the grant money to cover costly repairs to their homes and vehicles,” says Justin Coyne, District 7 Highway president. “We were lucky that only a small portion of our members were impacted by the tornado, but we were there for all of them.”

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) honored Joplin Metro with a Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Community Service Award for its efforts following the tornado. In addition to social outreach, local credit unions faced unique business challenges following the natural disaster like aiding employees who lost their homes, stopping payments on hundreds of lost check books and confronting a portfolio of car loans for vehicles that were destroyed or missing. The month following the tornado, Joplin Metro experienced a huge inflow of deposits from trusting members who received insurance claims and disaster recovery assistance. That unprecedented inflow caused the capital ratio to drop even though the credit union’s actual capital hadn’t changed at all.

“When the tornado hit, we were right in the middle of implementing an enhanced internet banking platform, automatic bill pay, mobile access and e-statements,” says Kelley Melton, Great Plains Federal controller. “Rolling out these services amid disaster recovery efforts was challenging. But we did more than just recover, we’ve gotten better and now offer more to our members.”  

Today, all four credit unions have physically recovered from the tornado damage and are operating at full capacity. The two largest credit unions headquartered in Joplin, Joplin Metro ($27.5M) and Great Plains Federal ($299.7M) have grown in deposits by 20.95 and 4.6 percent, respectively. Immediately following the disaster as claim checks were being written to the insured members, the assets of these two grew rapidly and only now, one year later, are beginning to recede due to rebuilding and redeployment of those deposits by members. Operationally, they have continued to perform well as evidenced by their ROAs of .51 percent and .48 percent respectively, through March 2012.

“Our membership is doing well with most members having either rebuilt or in the process of rebuilding, and the good news is they’re putting in storm shelters,” says Steve Pierson, BluCurrent president. “We know because of all the storm shelter loans we are doing for 2.99 percent, which has brought in some new members.”

​Photo caption: Joplin Metro President Cindy Atteberry points to where she and her husband huddled together while an EF-5 tornado demolished their home on May 22, 2011. 
Photo caption: One year after the tornado, a tribute to the 126 tornado victims remains.