By Gordon Williams 

Wells Fargo’s Colm Boer and a group of volunteers, photographed in 2019

When water from rain-swollen rivers flooded much of Northwest Washington in November 2021, the American Red Cross came to the assistance of inundated communities, while Wells Fargo came to the assistance of the Red Cross. Continuing a long-standing commitment to charitable giving, the bank donated $35,000 from the Wells Fargo Foundation to help support Red Cross flood relief efforts. 

This was far from the first time Wells Fargo used its financial and human resources to aid the mission of the Red Cross. “They have been a strong supporter for years,” says Megan Snow, regional philanthropy officer based in the Red Cross Spokane office. In all, the Red Cross nationwide has received nearly $28.7 million in donations from Wells Fargo since 1989. 

Snow says Wells Fargo had previously supported Red Cross relief efforts following the Washington wildfires. She also points to Wells Fargo’s effort to support the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. That program aims to reduce fire deaths by installing smoke alarms in at-risk homes that lack them. Wells Fargo employees have also made a personal commitment by responding to home fires and other disasters as part of Red Cross Disaster Action Teams (DAT).  

In other words, when the Red Cross has needed help in fulfilling its mission of aiding disaster victims, its efforts have been bolstered by gifts of money, time and talent from Wells Fargo.  

Since most Red Cross workers at disaster scenes are volunteers, you may wonder how such donations are spent. Here are some facts and figures about Red Cross spending during the November 2021 flood response. Listing “services supplied to the community,” the Red Cross says that it and partner relief organizations: 

  • Provided or supported more than 1,000 overnight shelter and hotel stays in Whatcom and Skagit counties. 
  • Served more than 4,900 meals and snacks at shelters and feeding stations. 
  • Delivered emergency supplies including more than 600 clean-up kits to flood-impacted households. 
  • Made more than 690 contacts to support health or disaster health needs. 

Summing up its response, the Red Cross says it “operated shelters and provided meals in Whatcom and Skagit counties through December 3. We also distributed emergency supplies through multiple impacted communities and conducted casework at a Service Center in Bellingham through December 11.” The Red Cross served a Thanksgiving Day meal at its shelters. Finally, Red Cross workers assessed the damage to hundreds of water-logged homes.  

Two Emergency Response Vehicles are staged at a Red Cross shelter to support flood victims in Whatcom County. (November 2021)

Since Wells Fargo is headquartered in San Francisco, you may wonder how it came to aid Red Cross relief efforts in Washington State, some hundreds of miles away. In fact, the company has approximately 4,900 branches in 36 states —128 of those branches are in Washington. Some of those branches were at dead center of the flood zone.  

Colm Boer is regional banking senior manager for Wells Fargo, based in Lynnwood WA. It was branches he supervised that were put in danger by the floods. Communities served by the bank were hit by mass evacuations. The bank’s branch in Ferndale, WA closed temporarily because of rising water. Bank employees, says Boer, worried about whether they could make it home safely, and whether their homes could survive the floods.  

Snow says she and bank officials made contact as the scope of the disaster became clear. “I kept them updated,” she says. “They asked what they could do to help.” Boer, in turn, says that Wells Fargo “will be here for local communities in the wake of natural disasters, and band together to support individuals and families going through difficult times.” 

In addition to the grant, Wells Fargo makes it easy for customers to donate to the American Red Cross via Wells Fargo Online® and with Zelle® in the Wells Fargo Mobile® app. Donations go toward Red Cross Disaster Relief to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Support for disaster relief efforts are part of Wells Fargo’s commitment to make a positive impact in communities, address complex societal issues, and help build a more inclusive, sustainable future for all. According to Boer, Wells Fargo allocated more than $2.4 million in charitable grants to schools and nonprofits throughout Washington in 2021. 

“Part of what makes Wells Fargo’s philanthropy program so robust, is the generosity of our employees,” he said. “They multiply our community impact, locally and collectively.” 

Wells Fargo’s employees get 16 hours of paid volunteer time a year. Under the bank’s Community Care Grant program, employees can earn up to $2,000 a year for their financial giving and volunteer service activities that can be directed to eligible nonprofits of their choice. In 2021, says Boer, Wells Fargo employees in Washington logged 7,000 volunteer hours, and allocated over $150,000 in Community Care Grant program funds to organizations they are passionate about. 

There are new disasters every day, and there is never an end to the demand for Red Cross assistance. You obviously can’t donate on the scale of a huge banking company. But every donation, big or small, can help bring relief to disaster victims. To learn how to support the Red Cross in the Northwest Region, go to redcross.org/northwest

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