A Natural Response In The Face Of Disaster

How Redwood Credit Union helped raise more than $2 million and gained the respect and friendship of the communities it serves.

During the 2015 California wildfire season, one of the most damaging blazes in California history the Valley Fire caused an estimated $700 million in damage, destroyed 1,300 homes as well as several hundred other structures, and killed four people.

Much of the fire was in Lake County, a major market for Redwood Credit Union ($2.8B, Santa Rosa, CA) and, more importantly, home or close to it to many of its more than 200,000 members.

The credit union, its RCU Community Fund, and a local newspaper responded by creating a fund and collecting $2.4 million in just 12 weeks.

One hundred percent of the donations went to support the victims, says Robin McKenzie, senior vice president for marketing and communications at RCU. It was heartwarming and inspiring to see so many do so much to help our neighbors in need.

Redwood Credit Union has a deep commitment to community service, including committing Random Acts of Kindness. Read all about it here

The credit union provided a convenient way for donations to go directly from its 16 North Bay and San Francisco locations to Lake County relief, and it guaranteed every dollar would go to that effort. In support of the new fund, schools brought in buckets of pennies, and the trio collected money during concerts and other donation events.

Sometimes you just have to step up, McKenzie says. That’s what we’re about as a credit union.

Altogether, more than 12,000 individuals, businesses, and community organizations contributed.

We know many people chose RCU to donate to because they trust us and that means a great deal.


Data as of 12.31.15

  • HQ: Santa Rosa, CA
  • ASSETS: $2.8B
  • MEMBERS: 210,219
  • BRANCHES: 16
  • 12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 13.94%
  • 12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 13.99%
  • ROA: 1.92%

Let’s Be Transparent

We know many people chose RCU to donate to because they trust us and that means a great deal, McKenzie says.

Transparency was a priority for the credit union. That’s why it created the landing page redwoodcu.org/lakecountyfirevictims to update the community on where contributions were going. That page is still online click here to see it.

The credit union also stepped up with some offers of its own, independent of the fund:

  • A 0% loan up to $5,000 for up to 12 months.
  • A 1.90% auto loan through RCU Auto Services for those who lost vehicles in the fires.
  • A 2.90% RV loan to assist displaced homeowners with motorhomes or trailers for temporary shelter.
  • Credit card limit increases to assist with emergency purchases.
  • Loan payment relief on RCU loans and lines of credit.
  • Plus other financial assistance programs.
Robin McKenzie, SVP at Redwood Credit Union, provides a check to Jim Comisky, director for the South Lake County Fire District, for firefighters who lost their homes while working to save others’. Letters displayed at a Lake County community event written by children in nearby Oakland, CA, and other schools to children who were victims of the September 2015 fires.

McKenzie says the number of donors indicates the credit union’s effort will have a lasting impact on its reputation.

We’ve heard from others in the community that the trust in RCU has grown stronger as a result of our fire relief fund efforts, she says. And, as we are at community events or speaking to members or neighbors, we’ve heard countless thank yous’ for all that we did to help.

Learn how four credit unions pay it forward every day, year-round.

According to McKenzie, member and employee surveys also have revealed pride in RCU’s community programs and efforts before and after the blaze.

Natural disasters have their own way of bringing communities together, McKenzie says. We hope we were able to provide a way for the generous donors in nearby communities to be able to contribute and have an impact on the lives of those impacted by the fires.

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  • 2015 Credit Union Impact Report
February 15, 2016

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