Gene's Note: Community Service is Essential

One of our guiding values at Rogue Credit Union is 'community service is essential.' We work to live that through our actions and with financial support. It is times like this, when our community is struggling, that this value becomes even more important.

Over the last several months, we have worked with local partners to continue our support of vital community service organizations – it’s just what we do. However, when I got the call from the state legislature, asking for our help distributing $35 million in emergency relief funds to Oregonians, I hesitated. 

I was uncertain because the funds could only be distributed after personal verification of identification. That meant that the majority of those requesting funds would have to visit a Rogue Credit Union branch. I was uncertain because we would not only be serving our members, but anyone in the community that met the qualifications for the emergency relief. I was uncertain because to do this would mean that the normal level of service that we provide to our members would be adversely impacted. 

As is usually the case, our leaders and our board of directors immediately saw the opportunity to help Southern Oregon. They saw the opportunity to live our values. They saw the opportunity to do the right thing and encouraged us to act when our community needed our help the most. So, we agreed to open all of our branches to distribute these funds.

As some of you witnessed, once the Oregon Emergency Relief Funds program was announced, the response was overwhelming. We had challenges with long lines and the inability for our members to find parking at many of our branches. For three days, many of you joined our community service efforts by delaying a visit to a branch or navigating through large crowds to do your business. Not only were our members impacted, but local businesses near our branches were also impacted by the large number of community members desperately seeking these relief funds. 

One of the stories our team shared with me was of a woman needing these funds so badly, she joined the lines after a radiation treatment for stage 4 cancer. It was shared with our team that even though she was exhausted from the treatment, she joined the back of a long line at one of our branches. However, with the heat and still recovering from her treatment, she decided that for her health, she just couldn’t wait in the line any longer. Heartbroken that she was not going to be able to get the help she needed, she left wondering what she would do. Fortunately, we heard about her plight and our team was able to get her the funds, and the hope she needed to continue to fight her health battle. 

This is one of literally dozens of stories we’ve heard. For all of you that were impacted by the crowds…your willingness to sacrifice convenience was a valuable contribution in this community service effort. Rogue stepped up and distributed these funds because it was the right thing to do. All the expenses of helping with this emergency relief were a community donation and not reimbursed. The majority of our 500 team members were engaged in this effort over those three days that the funds were available. The costs for security guards, signage and documents were all part of our contribution. Yet, while this was a sacrifice for our team, our members and our neighbors, the effort reminded me of the teamwork and true concern for others that I saw during the financial crisis. In this time where we are required to stay apart, I saw our team, our neighbors and our community come together to make a difference. It was great to see our team, our members and our neighbors work for WE! We were in this together and made others our top priority for more than just those three days in August.

So, if you get a chance, please take a moment to thank a Rogue team member or a business near one of our branches for helping our community. They worked on a never-ending pile of applications, with lines snaking around buildings and down streets. They stood in the heat, directed traffic and worked tirelessly without question...and they were thankful for the opportunity to serve our community in this way. Everyone that joined us in this effort are true community heroes!

Not only was I encouraged by how our team dropped everything to help, I continue to be humbled by the stories of what our friends and neighbors did to help us also. Whether it was Bob in Eagle Point putting up pop up tents and misters for those standing in line to cool them off, to community members bringing water to those in line, was a community effort. For those of you that couldn’t find a parking spot had to delay your business for a few days, I hope you know that your sacrifice was for the good of those that desperately needed these funds. It is times like this when our community stands tall, that I am the proudest to live in Southern Oregon. 

So, what kind of difference did you make? You ensured that Southern Oregon got its fair share of the Oregon Emergency Relief Funds. If we would not have participated, it is likely that the majority of the emergency relief payments would have gone to other larger communities in Oregon. However, because we were involved, and you supported us, we were able to secure over $11 million in emergency relief for the communities we serve. The money is a great boost, but seeing folks and the glimmer of hope that things would be a little better was priceless. I worked the lines and spoke with people in Medford, Ashland and Central Point. Each story was heart wrenching and the genuine sense of appreciation by those that we helped will never be forgotten. 

You and your credit union did a good thing and over 23,000 residents of Southern Oregon are better for it. I am so fortunate that I work for a values-based organization that believes community service is essential. Thank you for your understanding and support to ensure that our community is in a little better place than it was before these emergency relief funds were distributed!
We all made a difference!

I truly enjoy the messages I receive from our members in response to these posts and suggestions for future topics. So, please share how you were impacted or how you serve our community at