Gene's Note: From Relief to Recovery

I recently reviewed Rogue’s 2020 results with your board of directors. I was able to report the credit union finished 2020 in a strong and healthy position due to the support of you, our members. As our members sought safety from economic uncertainty, we grew our deposits by over 35%. This is more than four times what we planned for in 2020! Fortunately, our income remained strong through significant growth in our mortgage lending operations, which allowed us to help struggling members pay their bills. The strong income resulted in being able to retain reserves and maintain the strength and stability of your credit union.. In other words, even through all the challenges you and your credit union faced in 2020, we were able to be there for our members as they navigated the restrictions of the pandemic, job losses, virtual school and wildfires.

It is good to have all 2020 threw at us in the rear view mirror, but the road ahead of our country and community will take all of us joining together to move from relief to recovery. While we all experienced unforeseen challenges and obstacles, it was in the most challenging times when I saw our community put aside their differences to support each other. As we move forward, this effort to find common ground to help our community recovery will be key! 

During and after the wildfires I saw individuals and groups rise up to help each other. Whether it was Caden’s story of his pop-up donation center or the United Way’s relief efforts from day one, we joined together to help those that needed us most. I continue to be humbled by the generosity of our members and the community as the Rogue Credit Union Foundation raised over $1 million for wildfire relief in less than two weeks. Even more humbling is the fact that funds continue to flow in, which allows us to continue to support recovery efforts.

Soon after the fires devastated our community, I was given the opportunity to join the Governor’s Wildfire Economic Recovery Council. The group’s objective was to identify the extent of the damage and to identify economic recovery needs for each of the communities across Oregon impacted by the wildfires. It was an honor to serve with such a distinguished group of elected officials, public servants, community leaders, and community advocates. From early October until the first of this year, the council met weekly for updates on those displaced by fires, relief efforts, debris clean-up, and brainstorming how to replace the housing lost by the fires. With each report it would have been easy to say the challenge is too great, but the state leaders and community participants purposely took all these reports in so they could provide recommendations to our governor and elected leaders. 

The most touching part of the process was when a dozen community members that were directly impacted by the fires from around the state shared their experience with the committee. I was particularly struck by the stories of a couple of Rogue Credit Union members. Unless you were directly impacted by the fires, it is hard to understand what these folks went through. Our members shared stories of how they were separated from loved ones or went around their manufactured home park warning other residents of the fire. These members lost their homes and shared stories of how they were able to find housing and take in family members that were not able to find housing yet. I personally called these members after their presentation to the Governor’s council to check in with them and make sure we were doing all we could at Rogue to help them. The really cool part is one of the members I called was moving into their new home at the end of the week…and it was being financed by Rogue Credit Union!

So, why do I share these stories? I share them to identify the challenges we face and share hope for the future. After several months of learning about the impact of the wildfires, the Governor’s Economic Wildfire Recovery Council sent to the Governor an extensive report, Recovering and Rebuilding from Oregon’s 2020 Wildfires. This report identified the impacts of the wildfires, the relief efforts to date and 23 recommendations to ensure the recovery our communities deserve. The 23 recommendations covered three primary areas of focus including housing and sheltering, debris and cleanup, and recovery and rebuilding. Even if you were not directly impacted by the fires I encourage you to review the report. There are very tough decisions ahead for our elected leaders as they grapple with the priorities and where they make investments for the recovery of our communities. Your voice will be more important than ever as we move forward. 

On the committee I was honored to work with two outstanding local legislators. Senator Jeff Golden and Representative Pam Marsh effectively represented the interests of Southern Oregon. I was impressed with their grasp of the issues we faced and their advocacy for Southern Oregon. We are incredibly fortunate that Senator Golden is the Chair of the Senate Committee on Wildfire Reduction and Recovery. In addition, Representative Marsh is the Vice-Chair of the House Wildfire Recovery Committee. They are your voice in Salem for the needs of Southern Oregon and they are both well positioned to make sure your voice is heard. 

As we move from relief to recovery, we have a long road ahead of us. Initially a 1-3 year timeline was mentioned, then it moved to 3-5, and now I am hearing reports of 5-10. The engagement of the credit union, our members and the community is the investment we need to ensure Southern Oregon will not only recover, but leverage the investments we make in our community to thrive in the years to come. There are multiple charities, groups, and committees working to ensure the recovery of our community. The list of ways to join is too long to include here, but if you are interested in matching your skills and talents to one of the efforts underway, please reach out to me and I will point you in the right direction. The future of our community is in our hands and whether we were directly impacted or not…we are all in this together!

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 are joining the recovery efforts as we work to rebuild Southern Oregon at