Weathering the Storm Together
In 2019, FHLBank Chicago’s Community First® Disaster Relief Program provided $265,000 in grants to support reconstruction efforts in Wisconsin and Illinois counties affected by severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding. One
of these communities, the small town of Elcho, was devastated by violent storms that blew a 15- by 20-mile path through Wisconsin’s North Woods in July. Thousands of trees and hundreds of buildings were damaged, and residents were without power
for several days. Antigo-based CoVantage Credit Union was unable to open its Elcho branch due to the outage, but its staff still went to work—assisting the local fire department with more than 320 hours of volunteer time conducting welfare
checks, clearing debris, delivering water, and serving food, as well as an additional 100 hours of staff time assisting members with grant applications.
Soon, the credit union was also working on a special reduced-rate loan program for members recovering from the damage. In addition, through the Community First Disaster Relief Program, CoVantage was able to expand its storm relief efforts by distributing
grant funds to individuals and small business owners. “In the wake of the storms, our community was struggling financially and emotionally,” said Charlie Zanayed, President and CEO, CoVantage Credit Union. “The Disaster Relief Program
was a way we could provide assistance to those who had damage, debris, and replacement costs, many of whom were low-income families or local businesses.”
Through the Community First Disaster Relief Program, our member institutions distribute grants to eligible households and businesses within FEMA-declared disaster areas in our district. Since the creation of the program in November 2013, we have distributed
over $1.6 million in disaster relief grants across Illinois and Wisconsin.
“The Community First Disaster Relief Program does many things,” said Zanayed. “For some, it allows safe access to their homes; for others, it funds repairs so their business can fully function. This program allows people and families to take a much-needed step toward financial security in the wake of a disaster.”
Charlie Zanayed, President and CEO, CoVantage Credit Union