Inside the Foundation  
Foundation Disaster Grant Recipients One Year Post-Hurricane Harvey
Wednesday, December 19, 2018 11:15 AM

The Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation has been checking in with credit union volunteers and staff who received disaster relief grants after their homes sustained damage in 2017's Hurricane Harvey. While credit unions were determined to get back to business as soon as possible, many of their volunteers and staff still had to rebuild, replace, and repair their homes and autos while serving their members and their community.

Following are the stories of Mark Palomo, Vanessa Wheeless, and a grateful but anonymous recipient of disaster relief grants.

Mark Palomo

Extensive flood damage from Hurricane Harvey meant incredible unforeseen expenses for Mark Palomo's family. His home experienced 21 inches of water, which took six days to recede. The grant funds he received from the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation helped cover the costs of repair and materials such as clean-up supplies, sheet rock, and paint. The funds also defrayed the cost of replacing food that had been lost due to power outages in the area.

"The majority of the repairs to my home have been completed," Palomo said. "Two projects are left and are scheduled to be completed this year. My family and I appreciate Cornerstone for assisting with recovery efforts and that I was chosen to receive a grant to help with repairs to my home with this unforeseen disaster."

Palomo is vice president of asset recovery for First Community Credit Union. While he was working through his own recovery travails, he also was assisting credit union members in the same situation. In particular, he assisted members with modifications and extensions to their loans.

Mark Palomo home
For Mark Palomo, flood damage from Hurricane Harvey meant the floors in his home had to be removed and the sheetrock replaced. The disaster relief grant funds he received from the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation helped to cover the costs. 
Mark Palomo home
The new floors are in! After extensive flood damage from Hurricane Harvey, the disaster relief grant funds Mark Palomo received from the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation helped to cover the costs of new flooring, sheetrock, and paint in his home. 

Vanessa Wheeless

Vanessa Wheeless neighborhood
Flooding in Vanessa Wheeless's Houston neighborhood after Hurricane Harvey, for which she received a disaster relief grant. 

After the waters rose and flooded her home and auto, grants from the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation helped Vanessa Wheeless cover the cost of repairs and replace furnishings, clothing, and personal items.

"I would have been so devastated had I not received immediate assistance from the Foundation," said Wheeless, business and community relations with Members Choice Credit Union in Houston. "I did not have flood insurance, so my needs were greater than expected."

"My auto was a total loss as well," Wheeless reported. "I appreciate the assistance so much and extending a hand up and demonstrating a people-helping-people philosophy for me during this challenging time. It truly made a difference, and I am forever grateful! Thank you so much!"

Vanessa Wheeless home
Some of the damaged furnishings from the home of Vanessa Wheeless after Hurricane Harvey flooding. 
Vanessa Wheeless
Repairs were made to the back porch of Vanessa Wheeless's home, thanks to a disaster relief grant from Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation.

Anonymous Disaster Grant Recipient

Vanessa Wheeless home
Repairs have been made to Vanessa Wheeless's floors, thanks to a grant from Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation. 

One of our disaster grant recipients wanted to express her gratitude to the Foundation for their help during a bad situation but chose to remain anonymous, and we respect her wishes. She said her repairs were completed Aug. 30, 2018, which was almost a full year after the storms.

"My husband and I were able to make purchases on miscellaneous items needed and to pay for gasoline for the generator until we had electricity," the grant recipient said. "We used the funds while waiting to receive insurance funds, which came in late November or early December [2017]."

She goes on to say, "It was a true blessing receiving help through the Cornerstone CU Foundation. Although we had insurance and filed the day after the storm, it took until the end of the year before receiving all the funds the insurance allocated. We also never received help from FEMA. These funds really helped us during this bad situation."

"It's incredible that people should still be in a recovery phase more than a year after Hurricane Harvey," said Foundation Executive Director Courtney Moran. "But that's the nature of unexpected natural disasters. They're difficult, if not impossible, to plan for. The Foundation is fortunate to receive generous contributions throughout the year from caring credit union supporters, which enables us to provide disaster relief grants to affected credit union staff and volunteers when needed."

flooding in home
Flooding in the house of a grateful disaster relief grant recipient. 
home repairs
After the walls and floors of her home were ruined due to Hurricane Harvey flooding, disaster relief grants helped cover the costs of repair and replacement. 

When planning your budgets for 2019, please remember your Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation.