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.

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

Fighting hunger one ‘like’ at a time

My mom always told me – it’s better to give than to receive. She’s right. But it’s even better to support something you know will make a difference.

American Family recently began its support of the National FFA Organization’s Rally to Fight Hunger. This “social cause” lives on our company’s Facebook page and requires some action from you. For every new person who “likes” the page from now through Oct. 31, our company will donate $1 toward fighting hunger in the U.S. (up to $20,000). You can monitor this progress on Facebook or our website.

In working with the dedicated people of the National FFA Organization, I learned about the widening scope of hunger. In the coming year, nearly one in five U.S. children will face the risk of hunger.

That’s too many.

We can’t eliminate hunger with money alone. But by partnering with organizations like FFA – that understand hunger and food insecurity – American Family can make a bigger impact with our donation. It will fund as many as 50,000 prepackaged meals being assembled at the FFA’s Rally to Fight Hunger, part of the organization’s national convention in Indianapolis in October.

I’d encourage you to connect with us on Facebook where we’ve been sharing some of this information, to help educate our community about the prevalence and impact of hunger. We want to help feed more hungry families, but we also want to shine a stronger light on this issue.

You can help, too. Talk with your friends and family about this important cause. Share the information from our Facebook and Twitter pages. Watch and share our YouTube video, which goes into more detail about FFA’s program. Help us reach our goal – and in the process, educate more people on the issue of hunger.

As Oprah Winfrey once said, “I think [giving is] an ongoing process. And it's not just about being able to write a check. It's being able to touch somebody's life.”

Thanks for your willingness to give and touch lives in simple ways.

Posted by Tom Buchheim on Fri, Oct 05 2012 12:04 pm
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