Contact: Rafael Morales, Communications Officer
212-809-1850 ext. 206
As you descend from an elevated highway into the city of New Orleans, you see signs that hint at what awaits you: “Gutting $1.50/square foot… Affordable Demolition … Mold Remediation… ” But nothing – not the news photos you’ve seen, nor even your imagination -- prepares you for the scope of devastation you will encounter, if you travel beyond the French Quarter, business district, and other select neighborhoods.
Making your way to the TCA FCU, you pass block after block of empty storefronts and abandoned or destroyed houses. A large, spray-painted X marks each building with last September’s inspection records: inspector’s initials, dates, number of corpses, and occasionally, information about pets. Still clearly visible on many buildings are the “bathtub rings” – broad, dirty high-water marks, reaching six feet or more in some places.
The credit union’s former office was located on the ground floor of a modest, two-story complex occupied in part by Total Community Action, Inc. TCA is a large anti-poverty agency, providing services that range from Head Start, to home weatherization, to advocacy. In combination with the credit union it sponsors, TCA places strong emphasis on asset-building as a means to fight poverty. It operates an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program that has helped more than 4,000 working people obtain more than $4 million in tax refunds and credits.
The credit union’s storefront no longer exists. A seven-foot flood destroyed all the contents of the office, which is now completely gutted; what remains is a skeleton of studs stripped of their wallboards. One computer dangles loosely from its cord; other equipment sits in a small pile. A surviving teller window bravely displays the NCUA logo. Few other physical reminders of the credit union remain. The credit union’s safe was stolen, and with it a back-up disk; months of records had to be painstakingly recreated. Many of the credit union’s members were evacuated to other states. Manager Rhoda Hundley had to relocate to Alexandria, LA, up to four hours away by car from TCA’s New Orleans offices.
But the essence of TCA FCU has survived. Despite the personal hardships they have suffered, leaders like Rhoda Hundley, board member Jackie New, and TCA administrator Faye Wooten have committed themselves to the rebuilding process. Ms. Hundley reports that loans are being repaid, and occasionally, credit union members appear at TCA’s second-floor offices to conduct their business. Although new lending has been stalled, the $1.5-million, thousand-member credit union remains financially sound. Aided by a grant from the Federation’s Community Development Relief and Rebuilding Fund, the credit union has set a target date of July 1 to reopen its doors.
These recent photos from Total Community Action FCU show what's left of the credit union. The Federation's grant will help TCA FCU rebuild.