"No person has the right to rain on your dreams."
This is one of my favorite quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It because it reminds me although the rain will come, by doing for others, you help to protect their dreams and fulfill yours.
I am so lucky, because as a claims care center manager, I work in the dream department. Really, you say? Yep. I get to help protect my customer’s dream every day, along with the other claim care center folks. We are fortunate to be in the position to help others at a time when they are most worried about the deferment of their dreams.
As a "dream protector," if you will, I truly find satisfaction walking through the doors at American Family Insurance knowing today, just like every day, my job is to help my customers protect their dreams. We all know life surely will bring the rain, but if I am doing my job right, I will be a little sunshine, keeping life’s rain from pouring down on you.
Just as I get satisfaction in my professional life from being part of the dream-protecting fabric at AmFam, I try to apply the same principles in serving my community through Women in Focus, Inc. (WIF), a Madison, Wis., organization serving others with gratitude.
Dr. King said, "Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" Others have helped me through my journeys and "rain" of life. This inspired me to join Women in Focus, an organization whose charge since 1983 is to help young men and women of color to fulfill their dreams. It helps them pursue education opportunities beyond high school. This is a dream of many, I’d say.
Each year, through fundraising efforts of this extraordinary bunch, of which I am proud to say American Family faithfully supports, these educators, business owners, doctors, lawyers and moms get together and volunteer at the YWCA as part of a literacy program. We also plan the group's largest fundraising effort, which is the annual "I have a Dream Scholarship Ball" honoring Dr. King.
Over the years, Women in Focus has awarded 240 scholarships to Madison-area youth -- to help fund their dreams of education. I like to think we are truly women, in focus.
"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way." This quote, also by Dr. King, reminds me the efforts flowing from organizations like Women in Focus, and the contributions from companies like American Family Insurance, or simply doing my job with the goal of being a dream protector, do become a small but meaningful part of people's life fabric -- woven into a dream realized and protected.
The gracious part is when you realize in doing things for others, in small but significant ways, whether in your professional or personal life, you are blessed with the opportunity to become, momentarily, part of someone else’s dream.These dream-building moments become the protective fabrics that are then continuously rewoven into another’s, and then yet another.
So as we celebrate Dr. King, who had so many dreams -- for all of us -- I am going to celebrate in the spirit of continuing to do what I can to be a small but great part of someone else’s dream.
Dream with me?
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I believe this is true for American Family Insurance, as well, and was reminded of it at a recent event I attended on behalf of my company.
Northwest Missouri Children’s Advocacy Center provides free counseling and courtroom preparation for children who have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused. American Family has provided more than $50,000 to this group since 2006, and several American Family employees have served on its board of directors. At the organization’s recent anniversary dinner, the center recognized American Family with an award for Outstanding Commitment to Children in Northwest Missouri.
I sat at a table with the person who oversees all the child advocacies in the state, the local director of the organization, the local prosecutor and the former prosecutor from Joplin, Mo.
Some may consider the 2011 Joplin tornado to be old news now, but to those who were there, the memories are still very fresh. The retired Joplin prosecutor told us he thought American Family’s performance in the aftermath of the tornado was exemplary. He also said that at the time of the tornado, he was not insured with American Family, but after seeing our efforts, he now is.
Another person at the table said she, too, was influenced by how American Family responded to the tornado victims and is also now insured with us.
We really do provide excellent customer service. Getting feedback like this just reinforces that when we do the right thing, everybody wins. Clearly, we hit a home run in Joplin. Hearing what these people had to say about American Family was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my many years with the company.
The ones who really deserve the recognition, though, are the local agents, the property claim field adjusters and the agency sales manager for the area, Julie Hickman. One of our agents even lost his office during the tornado, and yet he was working around the clock to help his customers recover from their losses.
More than 130 American Family employees and adjusters helped out in the wake of the Joplin tornado. These people are the real folks who lived our mission, and their efforts pay off in the form of new, loyal customers – like the ones I met at dinner.
Editor's note: Click here to learn more about how American Family supports our local communities -- like Joplin -- through philanthropy and event sponsorship.
This is the time of year we hear a lot about traditions – spending time with family, participating in holiday activities and helping others who may not be as fortunate or who have fallen on hard times.
One tradition my family eagerly participates in is giving to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Toys for Tots program. We started several years ago when my two children were little.
Each year, they’d pick out toys or books that they’d want, and then donate them to Toys for Tots. Because my kids were making the decisions what to donate, I knew the toys were something that would be well received.
At first, they didn’t always understand why I asked them to pick out something they would like just to turn around and give it away, and, to someone they didn’t even know. However, as my children grew, this became an opportunity to talk about the importance of appreciating what we have and helping those less fortunate.
It’s now something they eagerly look forward to.
This year, in addition to our annual donation, my children joined me as volunteers at American Family’s Toys for Tots collection at the Employee Holiday Breakfast. We greeted families as they entered the breakfast and thanked them for their donations. It was a heartwarming experience to see the generosity of so many people.
The toys donated at American Family will join others in the area for distribution throughout Dane County.
Tracing its roots back to 1947 when the wife of a Marine Corps Reservist wanted to donate a doll to a needy child, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve has been providing toys to children who might otherwise go without.
Since its beginning, the Toys for Tots Program has distributed more than 469 million toys to over 216 million less fortunate children.
In 2011, American Family launched the “Dreams Protected” advertising campaign. My work team decided to take it one step further and help others build dreams.
The East Property Survey Team recently spent an afternoon working with Habitat for Humanity of Dane County. Although the organization was chosen because of the nature of our work, it quickly became clear we would be getting a lesson in much more than construction. It was a lesson on building dreams.
We were able to meet the recipient of one of the homes under construction. The gentleman was an inspiration to us all.
In 2006, he fled Kosovo in search of a better life for himself and his daughter. His profile on the Habitat website indicated he had “dreamed of owning his own home for many years.” He is determined and has been working very hard to make it happen.
He is currently working two full-time jobs and is a single parent to his 9-year-old daughter. Although he already has a full plate, he must also spend 325 hours working for Habitat for Humanity. This is what is called “sweat equity” and ensures recipients are invested in the home that eventually becomes theirs.
His busy schedule doesn’t seem to bother him at all. He is simply happy that he and his young daughter will have a place to call home; something others often take for granted.
The afternoon was spent working with this wonderful gentleman under the direction of a Habitat for Humanity supervisor. Some of us were able to contribute a bit more skillfully than others, but we all had enthusiasm and willingness to lend a hand.
Our job that day was to help install the second story walls. The pre-assembled walls had to be lifted from the ground to the second level, carefully placed, and nailed together. A few others were busy helping to frame the first floor of another home in the area. It was great to see how quickly the home’s frame came together! The recipient’s determination and excitement was even better! We could literally watch his dream coming true before our eyes.
While our arms were sore by the end of the afternoon, it was a good pain. We were grateful to have the opportunity to contribute our skills to make a family’s dream of home ownership come true.
Several of us plan to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity again. If you are interested in helping others achieve the dream of home ownership, you can contribute financially, shop at their wonderful Habitat Restores, or volunteer your time individually or with a group. Check out Habitat for Humanity of Dane County for more information.
On Sept. 5, I participated in American Family’s Days of Caring by volunteering at the Second Harvest Foodbank in Madison, Wis. That afternoon, about 20 other coworkers and I packaged what seemed like thousands of pounds of generic Fruit Loops to be distributed to the hungry in Southwest Wisconsin.
Second Harvest Foodbank, southwestern Wisconsin’s largest hunger-relief organization, is a nonprofit organization committed to ending hunger in 16 southwestern Wisconsin counties through community partnerships. It serves nearly 141,000 people each year; 43 percent of whom are children.
From July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, Second Harvest - together with its more than 225 partner agencies and programs - provided 12.6 million meals to those facing hunger. Second Harvest is part of Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief charity with 202 member food banks across the nation.
Second Harvest has the volunteer packaging program down to a science. It provided hair nets, aprons and gloves among five tables. Each table had its own scale, scoop and automatic bag tie apparatus into which you fed the end of the bag once it was filled with cereal. Given the competitive nature of those in the legal profession, it soon became a race to see which table could fill bags the fastest.
Our table won.
After just our short stint at scoopin’ loops, our upper arms and feet were a little sore the next day. It made us appreciate the comfortable office chairs at American Family. It also gave us a great opportunity to get to know people we see every day, but don’t have a chance to connect with.
You don’t really know someone until you’re up to your armpits in cereal with them…
At the end of our shift, we talked to another group that had just finished packaging vegetables. They shared that they volunteer once a week for several hours. That sort of dedication is impressive, but not hard to understand after you experience first-hand such fun while at the same time doing something that will help so many people.
Editor’s note: Want to help? American Family Insurance Madison, Wis., offices will be collecting food and cash donations for the Share Your Holidays food drive to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank. Donation bins are available through Dec. 9 at our Madison offices for anyone to drop off non-perishable food items. There are also containers for cash donations. Or, you can visit the Feeding America website to find local food banks near you.