By Susan Redden
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Farmers Insurance announced Tuesday that the company will team up with Rebuild Joplin for an initiative to help the community complete its recovery efforts.
The company already has placed one of its executives in Joplin, and it is pledging additional funds and volunteer hours by company workers to go toward the city’s recovery.
“Our commitment goes beyond disaster response; we need to be there to the end. So we’re stepping up with additional resources to make sure you cross the finish line,” said Chuck Browning, head of sponsorships and corporate giving for the company, at a news conference Tuesday.
The announcement was made at 2430 S. Murphy Ave., site of the 70th home to be constructed or renovated by Rebuild Joplin. Volunteers from Farmers, including company board members and executives, worked inside, hanging drywall.
The commitment was welcomed by Jerrod Hogan, executive director of Rebuild Joplin.
“We appreciate they have stepped up to continue to help Joplin,” he said. “As time passes, it’s harder to secure the resources, and there are still 350 families out there that need housing.”
The news conference was attended by city officials, state representatives from the Joplin area and John Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance. Huff said Farmers was the first company to arrive in Joplin with disaster crews after the 2011 tornado. He said he is pleased that the company “is still helping Joplin two years later.”
Browning said the insurance company’s pledge is part of a Caring for Communities program that was launched to mark its 85th year in business.
Nan Truel, head of specialty services operations for Farmers, has moved from Grand Rapids, Mich., to Joplin to oversee the effort for the next six months. In addition, employees of Farmers have pledged more than 10,000 volunteer hours to Joplin over the next year.
Browning said Truel will work “to focus our resources and expedite the recovery.” She also will be documenting local efforts for use in a “best practices playbook” that Farmers will compile and give to communities hit by disasters in the future.
“We think it’s just phenomenal that they would want to send someone to work in Joplin, to help us cross the finish line, and to educate others,” Hogan said.
Joplin Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean agreed, saying the commitment “will give Joplin residents continued hope.”
The owners of the home under construction were not at the event because one of the couple was in the hospital. Hogan said the two moved to Illinois after their home was destroyed.
“They were trying to gain custody of their grandchildren, then they didn’t have a home,” he said. “Now, they have the grandchildren and a home to raise them in.”
WHEN ALL CLAIMS ARE PAID, insurance companies will have paid out more than $2 billion in connection with the Joplin tornado, said John Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance. He praised the response of the insurance industry, saying more than $1 billion in claims were paid in the first 100 days after the tornado.