Like many insurance organizations, Aid Association for Lutherans (AAL), based in Appleton, WI, has been talking about incorporating a community service project into an agent conference for a long time. And, like many of those that have turned that talk into action, once AAL's meeting staffers took the plunge, they found their agents ready, willing, and delighted to spend a day doing good for others.
"Normally [our qualifiers] see the Field Conference as a time to relax and share with their peers," says Sally Klapper-Randa, field recognition and events manager for AAL. "And they all do a lot ofwork on their own. So we were a little afraid that [a community service project] would be the last thing they'd want to do on their vacation. We were pleasantly surprised by the response."
Some 160 agents, spouses, and kids over 16 years old packed up work clothes and turned out for the Executive Conference-East in Washington, DC a day early. AAL hosted a kickoff banquet and gave out assignments for projects with Jubilee Ministries and Habitat for Humanity.
"Each work site-there were about 16-had a director. All of them said they'd never had volunteers come in and work so hard," says Vicki Mai, AAL's fraternal promotions specialist, who traveled the sites throughout the day. "Each director planned six hours of work at each site, but our people worked so hard, some sites ran out of things to do."
Among the projects: putting up aluminum siding on a Habitat for Humanity home; preparing meals at a soup kitchen; serving a barbecue for residents of Sarah's Circle, an apartment building for low-income seniors; landscaping and cleaning Jubilee shelters; and helping out at a day-care center for Jubilee Housing kids.
But the AAL volunteers might be most proud of the work they did at the Jubilee Jobs office, where they made cold calls and placed three Jubilee residents in jobs. (The Jubilee Ministries-nine missions in Adams-Morgan, a DC neighborhood-help with housing, health care, employment, and education for low-income and homeless families and individuals.)
"People talked about it all week," says Klapper-Randa of the work day. "Everyone who participated mentioned it as a highlight of the conference." And those who didn't participate looked at the high spirits-and the T-shirts and hats-of those who did and realized they'd missed out on something special.