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

A day for saying thanks

Veterans DayWhen I wake up on a weekend, I decide what I want to do. If it’s hot outside, should I put on my T-shirt and shorts and take my dog for a long walk? Is it a day where I meet with my family for breakfast at a restaurant and we discuss a topic of our own choosing? 

Whatever it is, I can decide.

These are only two of many freedoms perhaps we take for granted. Living in America, we do have the opportunity to follow our dreams. We owe a great deal of thanks to those who have and currently devote their lives to serving our country and protecting the freedoms we enjoy.

My father served in the Air Force. Growing up on a farm, he was no stranger to hard work. Serving in the Armed Forces only enhanced the values he possesses. While in the service, he worked on planes and was in pilot training when his father sustained significant injuries at home. He was released from his call of duty so he could return home to run the family farm. When asked what his favorite part of serving was, he said it was the friends he made. It’s been 60 years since his discharge, and he still maintains friendships with some of them.

My goddaughter has served in the Marines for 10 years, now as a staff sergeant. She has endured two tours of duty in Iraq. She was near the front line and witnessed firsthand the ultimate sacrifice our young people were willing to make to defend America.

Her husband, Ramón, is a sergeant in a Special Forces unit in the Marines. He has done two tours of duty in Iraq and is now in Afghanistan. He is not allowed to discuss the missions he’s completed. We know that he is a very brave man and gives 100 percent every day so we all can continue to live in freedom at home.

I recently participated in a management course where we talked about being in the present. When Stephanie and Ramón are together, not only do they live in the present moment, they appreciate every second they’ve been given to spend together.

Stephanie and Ramon have a young son nicknamed Rai.

There have been times that Stephanie and Ramon have been assigned several thousand miles away from their beloved son. They forge ahead with the duties and give our country their absolute best. They are both positive, caring, devoted people. Rai stays with his grandparents during the times his parents’ duties take them away from him.

On Veterans Day, we need to remember it’s much more than a day where the mail doesn’t come and the banks are closed. We need to take a moment to say “thank you” to our service men and women, for giving up a portion of their lives so we can live in freedom.

Not long ago, I met a young woman on a plane. She was going home to stay with her parents for a year as she had just said goodbye to her husband, who was on a 10-month tour of duty to Iraq. She said she needed to convince herself every day her husband would be fine and would come home to her.

Many military families experience this same thing, some multiple times.

Martina McBride summed it up when she sang:

“Let freedom ring down through the ages from a hill called Calvary.
Let freedom ring wherever hearts know pain.
Let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key.
You can be free and you can sing let freedom ring.”

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 Sandra Lodholz on Wed, Nov 07 2012 8:30 amSandra Lodholz is a worker's compensation claims unit manager at American Family Insurance's Wausau, Wis., office.

Community garden is more than fresh tomatoes

American Family Insurance Community GardenI like to garden, put vegetable plants and seeds in the ground and see what happens. I like to tend the plants, watch them grow, flower and start to fruit. I wait impatiently for a tomato to turn just the right shade of red before picking it.

So it comes as no surprise that I jumped at the opportunity to ask for one of the 56 10x10-foot plots in American Family's new community garden on the company’s National Headquarters grounds.

What did surprise me is what happened next.

I talk about the garden with anyone who has five minutes to listen. I explain how proud I am what we've built in just two years. I describe how the community garden is much bigger than a 10x10-foot plot. I show off photos of the garden, gardeners and the produce we harvest. I talk about the 377 pounds of fresh produce we donated to food pantries in the Madison, Wis., area this year. 

We call it a "community garden" for a reason. Our community garden has 118 plots, but many more people are involved. I've seen husband-wife teams, entire families and small groups of coworkers work garden plots together.

I'm always meeting new people in the garden. We share seeds, gardening tips and recipes. Together, we celebrate that great big onion (a one-pound onion) and mourn together the loss of a plant or an entire patch of sweet corn (darn raccoons!). And I've met children who wouldn't touch a green bean but after growing them, can't get enough.

My involvement with the community garden is an incredibly engaging and educational process. Not only do I go to work each day, I visit my plot before or after work. I joined the garden committee. Then I volunteered to be a garden monitor. Now in our second year, I volunteered to co-chair the garden's leadership team.

The community garden is also part of American Family's overall sustainability efforts. The garden sits on previously unused land, making it productive. In addition to 118 individual plots, we planted six fruit trees that will eventually be harvested by community members. And being right here on the company's national headquarters campus, people don't have to drive far or out of their way to get to it because most of us tend our gardens before or after work.

The garden has also sparked my interest in writing about it, so I started a personal blog about urban gardening, where I encourage people to comment, share their perspectives and have gardening fun.

Josh Feyen is a social media specialist at American Family Insurance, where he also grows vegetables in a community garden plot. Josh writes about his gardening adventures in The Urbane Farmer blog.  

Posted by Josh Feyen on Thu, Oct 11 2012 9:49 pm

New blog helps us share your stories

Helping customers in JoplinThis month, we introduced this public blog on our website called Dream Protectors, the American Family Insurance blog.

It’s a new place for us to share our American Family stories. In creating this blog, we were motivated by an internal blog we have, where employees and agents share their experiences and inspiration. Why not share the stories about how we take care of customers or ways we are involved in our communities with the world, too?

These posts will be an opportunity for you to get to know us better. From taking care of customers during a big storm (like after the Joplin tornado in 2011) to agents going the extra mile to help a customer cut down a tree, to our focus on sustainability and our support of community agriculture, it all paints a rich picture of who we are as a company, and what we stand for.

If you have any thoughts or ideas about our blog, I’d love to hear from you. Please drop me an email at mwingate@amfam.com

I hope you enjoy what you read in this space, and it gives you a little more insight into American Family. 

Posted by Michele Wingate on Wed, Oct 10 2012 7:08 pm
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