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Timing and a competitive streak raise impact of Zurich’s food drive

Schaumburg, IL, August 8, 2018

Zurich offices across the U.S. and Canada rally to provide food for families in a season of need.

Thousands of food items donated by Zurich employees at 36 offices across the U.S. and Canada arrive in local pantries at a key time of need: Summer.

Diana Nelson, an associate director in welfare services for Schaumburg Township, explains what may seem counter-intuitive.

“November and December are huge collections for our food pantry. That’s when everyone thinks about hunger and people in need,” Nelson said. “Zurich contributes in summer, when families in need have children at home who aren’t getting breakfast and lunch through the schools. Our demand is high in summer, but our donations are typically low. Zurich carries us through.”

Just as donations from Zurich’s headquarters go to the Schaumburg Township pantry, food collected at other Zurich offices goes to their local pantries. That makes the month-long food drive one of Zurich’s broadest-reaching community impact efforts driven by employees.

And let there be no doubt: Employees are driven.

food driveZurich’s Rancho Cordova, California, office rallied around a “Caddyshack” -inspired competition, forming teams such as “Food Go-Phers.” They snapped daily photos of the growing mounds of donated items.

“As the pictures were distributed, you could see a sparkle of excitement as the teams worked on their strategy for the next day’s donations,” said Tiffany Cheung, a construction specialist in the Premium Audit Construction Wrap-up Unit. “The Rancho Cordova office’s passion for our community and teamwork came shining through, whether it was helping a member of an opposing team pick up a rogue can of green beans rolling away or helping unload their cart.”

In St. Louis, nine employees vied to donate the most items in return for a $25 gift card. “We have a small but very competitive office,” said Linda Bradshaw, a Zurich legal secretary. That spirit helped the St. Louis office capture the Zurich North America title for most items donated per employee: an average of 51.1 items.

At headquarters in Schaumburg, “there is a very coveted trophy—a silver bowl—that is awarded to the group that collects the most donations,” said Deborah Russ, a team lead in Claims vendor management and United Way Champion. United Way is Zurich’s core charity partner in the food drive.

Finance employees have earned the trophy for five years running.

“Competition is a little bit of what drives us; the cause is the bigger part,” said actuary Burt Marlowe, one of the Finance team members who accepted silver bowl honors at a finale rally hosted by Paul Horgan, Head of Zurich North America Commercial Insurance.

In a speech at the rally, Schaumburg pantry supervisor Amy Fillmore said Zurich’s home office donations last about three months and provide relief to roughly 6,000 people.

“You see that relief on a parent’s face, or in a hug from a senior citizen, or in the eyes of an unemployed worker. There is no one face of food insecurity,” Fillmore said. “These are families in our own community, our neighbors.”

Zurich’s 2018 donations totaled 39,585 items at the Schaumburg headquarters, plus 9,073 at other Zurich offices in the U.S. and Canada, for a grand total of 48,658 items.

“We do this,” said Finance executive assistant Leslie Miller, “because we care.”