Community Involvement

Giving blood = giving life

Bill Shepard donates blood to the American Red Cross.I’ve given blood a few times in my life. Involuntarily, that is.

Like the time I got a bloody lip from a wild pitch during a Little League game, prompting me to consider pursuing other sports. Such as badminton.

Or, later in life, when I accidentally sliced myself on a water bottle while vacationing in Slovakia, leaving me with a timeless "souvenir": a crescent-shaped scar on my left thumb.

Ah, good times.

So, I’ve always been a tad squeamish around blood – especially blood drives. Until recently. All it took was a few facts and figures to change my mind.

For instance, one pint of blood can save up to three lives. Every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood, spurring the need for 44,000 donations every day.

Given these facts, along with the critical demand for blood heightened by Hurricane Sandy this fall, I signed up for one of the many American Red Cross blood drives routinely held at American Family.

It turned out to be a pleasant experience. It didn’t hurt, and only took a little over an hour – a small price to pay for helping others whose lives may be at risk. I’m already planning to donate again in the future.

The next time a blood drive takes place in your community or at your workplace, consider rolling up your sleeve and giving. Or, arrange a time to donate when it might be more convenient for you – just contact the American Red Cross or America’s Blood Centers.

It’s not every day that you can say "I probably saved someone's life today."

Giving blood gives you that opportunity. 

Posted by Bill Shepard on Tue, Dec 04 2012 7:17 am

The art of giving back

American Family Insurance employees and agents like to volunteer for charitable organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and United Way. It’s great a way to make a difference at the local level. 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. 

Posted by Stacey Skinner on Fri, Nov 23 2012 7:40 amStacey Skinner is an American Family Insurance commercial lines underwriter.

Treating customers like family

Monica Guerra-AguilarThose 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.

Posted by Monica Guerra-Aguilar on Tue, Nov 20 2012 4:38 pmMonica Guerra-Aguilar is a manager in the American Family Insurance bilingual claims care center in Denver.

At 81, American Family worker ready to try retirement

Arleen - retiring at age 81

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.

Posted by Teresa Halvorsen on Fri, Nov 16 2012 2:37 pmTeresa Halvorsen is claim support services manager for American Family Insurance.

Thank the everyday heroes in your life

Freedom in never freeChances 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. 

Posted by Tom Buchheim on Sun, Nov 11 2012 8:52 am
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