I give a lot of time to various organizations and have a passion for volunteering.
Admittedly, when I became involved with local charitable organizations I did so for selfish reasons, like networking, resume building, and many other reasons that had more to do with me than others.
After a while, though, something changed.
Through volunteer work with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Northwest Missouri Children’s Advocacy Center, I saw firsthand the powerful effect these organizations have on children and families. I could share hundreds of stories about families in dire need that have received life-changing assistance from these organizations. These stories would melt your heart, as they have mine.
Volunteerism is a passion that I am determined to pass on to my children by educating them about the importance of giving back and lending a hand to others.
I used to think: “What can one person do to make a difference?” I have learned even the smallest contribution of time or resources can make a meaningful difference.
Consider the impact you would have if you took time to volunteer at a local elementary school as a reading tutor, make a donation to the local food pantry, help raise money to support breast cancer research, coach a Little League team … the list goes on. The opportunities are plentiful, and the rewards of volunteering are even more.
We all can make a difference working together with organizations toward a common goal.
That is why it's so important American Family supports the United Way. Contributions from American Family employees help the United Way provide support for its partner agencies. In St. Joseph, Mo., the United Way supports agencies that can help a family displaced due to fire or natural disaster, a child who is sick with a family who can’t afford the required care, a family in need of affordable childcare or a battered wife who needs legal assistance. And that’s just naming a few.
There are so many volunteer opportunities out there. Start looking today! Big or small, just get involved.
Editor’s note: Learn more about American Family’s efforts to strengthen our communities in our Newsroom, including a look at programs in each of our 19 operating states.
Those who know me would think Spanish is my first language. I carry a slight accent and sometimes pause to find the right word in English.
I can assure you that’s not the case.
I grew up in a small town in Minnesota where English was the only language. My mother has always been fluent in both Spanish and English, but Spanish wasn’t needed, and we quickly became an English-speaking household.
That only lasted about six years. Then, we moved to Denver, where many people speak both Spanish and English. It was difficult because I hadn’t spoken a word of Spanish in my life!
I got away with it for about four years until one day my mom said, “It is really too bad that being Hispanic you don’t know how to speak your language. From now on, solo Espanol” - only Spanish.
Growing up around family, friends, neighbors, school mates and even teachers, who spoke Spanish all day, every day, made learning the language very easy. However, speaking the language isn’t enough. You need to be the language.
The Latino culture is very different to what I was used to seeing in Minnesota. We would get together four or five times a week for no particular reason. We are loud, close and do everything together. We always had visitors who would come over for a cup of coffee and end up staying for hours. All they really wanted was to talk, catch up on things, or to hear the latest chisme - gossip.
This brings me to the topic of talking to American Family’s Hispanic customers. The call is rarely simple.
When asked, “How may I help you?” Their response will start with what road they were on when the accident happened, but will quickly move to why they were on that road, where they were going, who they were going to see, and why they were going to see that person.
This is why most Spanish-speaking calls take an average of two to three minutes longer than English-speaking calls. We come across so many different accents, dialects, rates of speech, and countries that it really puts your listening skills to the test. Every call is a different story and can even be taken out of context if you are not paying close attention.
So when bilingual claims care center employees are asked, “What’s the main difference in claims called in by Hispanic customers?” we say the key to providing excellent customer service is to tratar los como familia - just treat them like family.
If we're able to do that, then the rest is just … another language.
Many people can’t wait until retirement. They count the days until they can finally ignore their alarm clock and spend their waking hours pursuing personal passions.
It’s the rare individual who sees the traditional retirement years as an opportunity to stay employed, fulfilling their dreams on the job.
Arleen is one of these rare individuals. After 30-plus years of service to the American Family Claims Division, she only recently called it quits. She’s almost 82 years old!
As her supervisor these past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Arleen quite well and saw how work was an extension of her family.
Arleen loved the people with whom she shared her days. She added richly to their lives, and was quick with a story about her adventures up north or a recap of the latest Packers game.
She never complained about anything. In fact, a few years back she broke her leg and ankle in a fall. After taking a few months off to heal, she was back on the job, picking up right where she left off.
Arleen was also a quick study, never hesitating to learn new technology or take on increasing responsibility.
She’s a wonderful lesson to us all about the importance of staying busy at the things we enjoy, and making a positive impact on those around us.
We wish you a wonderful retirement, Arleen. You’ve earned it many times over.
Chances are you know a veteran. Maybe you even served in the military yourself.
We can thank them every day for their service, but today, it’s especially important. I know I’m going to thank my friends who’ve served, but especially my dad, who is 89 years old and defended our great country as a Navy pilot in World War II.
This time of year, we all tend to show our appreciation – not only for those who've spent time in uniform – but for the many other important folks who protect us, care for us and, in general, make life better for our families and communities.
American Family is making it easier to show our gratitude. Every day through Dec. 10, as part of our 30 Days of Thanks, our Facebook page will highlight one of the everyday heroes we too often take for granted.
You’ll find interesting information about these important people, so you can thank them personally ... with a simple "like," by posting comments or by sharing our stories with your own friends and family on Facebook.
Imagine what our dreams would look like if we didn't have support from the important people in our lives – like parents, teachers, coaches – you name it?
Let's take time to thank them.
Editor's note: Starting Nov. 11, join American Family Insurance as we devote 30 Days of Thanks to the everyday heroes in our lives. Who would be on your 30 Days of Thanks list? Visit our Facebook page today and all throughout our 30 Days of Thanks to share your gratitude.
Regrets, I've had a few.
One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t keep in touch with a college friend of mine after he joined the Navy. He was whip-smart, engaging, and one of the funniest people I've ever known. I always thought about writing to him while he was in the service. Sadly, I will never, ever have a chance to do so.
That's because he was killed in the terror attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
So I was personally moved when an American Family customer service center manager, Tom Hanson, recently spearheaded a holiday greeting card-signing drive for military personnel. Along with fellow employees and volunteers from the American Red Cross, Tom supervised card-signing stations at American Family offices in Madison, Wis.
I eagerly joined the employees and agents who dropped by to write their heartfelt wishes and words of support on the greeting cards. As a result, hundreds of American military men and women will get a special surprise in the mail during the approaching holiday season.
Tom's initiative was just one of several grassroots efforts at American Family aimed at celebrating the company's 85th anniversary through community service activities. As Tom puts it, "It makes me feel good that we did this, but I still feel it's a small gesture compared to the large commitment that these folks in the military have made and what they're going through."
It's no accident Tom and his colleagues took the time to show they care about people in the military. After all, he and his Customer Service Center colleagues demonstrate care and compassion every day when they receive claims-related customer calls. They help American Family put customers' lives back together when bad things happen. They are good examples to all of us that caring for others is in our DNA. All we have to do is act on it.
This holiday season, consider taking the time to send cards to men and women in the U.S. military – the American Red Cross "Holiday Mail for Heroes" program makes it easy to do.
I know I'm planning to sign more cards. It would've made my college friend happy.