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Rogue Credit Union distributes more than $1 million in fire aid

Rogue Credit Union has distributed more than $1.15 million in fire relief to local groups that are helping fire survivors in creative ways, from providing tools for workers to teaching students how to build wooden furniture.

The credit union launched a fundraiser in September to help those impacted by the Almeda and South Obenchain fires. It contributed $100,000 toward the effort, which attracted donations from as far away as Europe.

This month, Rogue Credit Union awarded grants to 23 local organizations.

“Our local nonprofits and community organizations are doing incredibly important work,” said Gene Pelham, president and chief executive officer of the credit union.

Talent Maker City received $41,100 for its Rise Up and Rebuild workshops that teach boys and girls ages 11-17 the hands-on carpentry skills needed to build bed frames.

The bed frames, being donated to families impacted by the fires, are being made by students from the Phoenix-Talent School District, who can request a bed frame themselves if they need one.

The weekly workshops kicked off Oct. 18 and continue through Dec. 20.

The Phoenix-Talent School District received $150,000 from Rogue Credit Union to replace 1,000 laptops for students. The school district had distributed laptops before the fires to prepare for the start of the school year, which is being done virtually in Jackson County because of state COVID-19 safety restrictions.

Many students lost their laptops in the Almeda fire, which destroyed 2,482 residential structures, primarily in Phoenix and Talent.

The Rogue Valley Family YMCA received $100,000, and the Kids Unlimited Academy and Kid Time indoor and outdoor play museum received $25,000 each to provide child care for fire-impacted families.

La Clinica got $100,000 to provide medical, dental and mental health care with its specially equipped mobile health care RV. The mobile unit can visit shelters, parking lots, parks and other locations, bringing health care to people where they are, said La Clinica Chief Executive Officer Brenda Johnson.

“We simply couldn’t do this work without the generosity of the community,” she said.

Donations to the fire relief fund have come from individuals, businesses, foundations and other credit unions, according to Rogue Credit Union.

United Rotary Clubs received $100,000 from the credit union to expand its Back to Work Program. Rotary already raised $50,000 to help 60 self-employed workers buy new tools and equipment after many lost their gear in the inferno, said Rotary member Bob Hunter, former editor of the Mail Tribune.

Rotary is expanding the program to include small businesses faced with expenses not covered by insurance or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he said.

Local Rotary clubs hope to raise $1 million for fire relief and recovery projects by reaching out to the community and other clubs across the country, Hunter said.

Rogue Food Unites received $75,000 from the credit union for its efforts to feed people displaced by the fires. Rogue Food Unites pays local farmers to provide fresh ingredients to local restaurants, which are paid to make meals for people.

The effort helps restaurants stay open and keep their employees on the job at a time when many are suffering economically from the pandemic.

United Way of Jackson County received $100,000, and ACCESS got $75,000. The organizations have long helped people meet basic needs, but the need has jumped during the pandemic and fire aftermath.

Other organizations receiving funds include the American Red Cross, Oregon Shakespeare Festival Association, Maslow Project, Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, Options for Helping Residents of Ashland, Boys and Girls Clubs, I CARE, Consumer Credit Counseling, SO Equity, Rogue Climate, Rogue Action and the Southern Oregon Lions.

Rogue Credit Union is continuing to accept donations for the Wildfire Relief Fund. To donate, visit roguecu.org or stop by a credit union branch.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Local student Leydi Ramirez cuts wood for bed frames that will be donated to families who lost their homes in the Almeda fire. Talent Maker City received a $41,100 grant from Rogue Credit Union to teach students carpentry skills and help fire-impacted families. (Photo by Allison French of Talent Maker City)