Several days ago I received a mail solicitation from the Salvation Army asking for a donation to help support a local shelter they operate. By coincidence I had toured this same shelter with a mens group I belong to a few days earlier. Come to think of it, the solicitation might not have been such a coincidence given the favorable impression the shelter made on our group.
The shelter was located in a resort facility that had failed–a local well-to-do family had helped the Salvation Army acquire the property, which turned out to be ideal for its mission. When we were touring the shelter we were told about this mission, which essentially is to help families temporarily down on their luck. People who were employed or employable but had lost everything including their home, usually because of illness and medical bills or abuse of credit card debt.
The shelter provides for such people who must be drug- and alcohol-free and employed (they help get them employed) and for a maximum of 120 days. In return the family must agree that during this period they save 80% of their earnings, thereby giving them a cushion when they are again on their own. The program is impressive and worthy of support.
Accompanying the solicitation I received was a piece entitled “Amys Story.” Amy is a person helped by this shelter and this is her “story.”
“Amy never intended to end up in a Salvation Army shelter. In fact she had a good job as an Office Manager and was happily married with three children. Life seemed good until her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“After 13 months of struggle and treatment, during which time Amy lost her job, Amys husband died. She was left alone to raise her family to pay off the debt caused by medical bills. Distraught with this impossible task, and overwhelmed by grief, Amy declared bankruptcy.
“A short time later, Amy found a job at $5.15 an hour as a grocery clerk and moved into an apartment with her three children. But her paycheck just didnt stretch far enough to cover rent, utilities, food and other expenses for her growing children.”
“I was scared and didnt know what to do. I didnt want my children to live on the street,” recalls Amy. “Then a friend suggested that I try the Salvation Army.”
“I was not looking for a handout, I just needed some assistance. I needed help to get back on my feet.”
The upshot of this was that the Salvation Army housed and fed Amy and her children at its shelter for two months. She received help in finding a new job as an Office Manager, and counseling regarding her finances and the loss of her husband. Her savings led to a bank account and a new start on her own.
We are fortunate to have such an institution in our community that is available to the Amys of our world. But as I ready her story, and recalled what I saw and heard on the tour of the shelter, I realized once more how fortunate we are to have yet another institution that is available to prevent such distress. I refer to the institution of life and health insurance whose primary mission is to prevent such impoverishment.
As I read Amys story, I was struck by the contrast in her situation and those of the people in LIFEs “real life stories.” How much easier is the transition to a new life for beneficiaries of life insurance than for those who have to struggle without it.
As great as the Salvation Army is, it will likely never be able to provide for all the Amys that need help. This, I believe, imposes an enormous responsibility upon our business to assure the widest possible use and availability of the products we sell.
This used to be referred to as the “religion” of life insurance. Lately I detect that our religious fervor has not been as strong as in former times. The creation of wealth is certainly important and to many a more glamorous pursuit than helping people face the reality of death or disability. But the fact remains–our primary mission is the prevention of poverty.
Life insurance is still the foundation of any financial plan. Only after the perils associated with unanticipated death or disability are addressed should one move on to build upon that foundation. Without that foundation any financial plan may collapse because there was not enough time for it to mature.
In conducting tours of its facility for interested groups, the Salvation Army is trying to awaken our community to a pressing need it is serving, and thus, worthy of our support. We need to do likewise.
In hard times, advertising and public relations are often the first to feel the corporate ax. We have a great story to tell and we should double our efforts in doing so, and in the process not only reduce the number of Amys in our society–but serve our own interests as well.
Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, February 24, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.