Employee volunteers

Grinnell Mutual employee volunteers

At Grinnell Mutual, doing for others is baked into our company culture. The company offers paid volunteer time off (eight hours per year) and other workday volunteer opportunities throughout the year. This means employees don't always have to use their personal paid time off to take part in causes and organizations that are important to them.

Read some of their stories.

Jim Kronenberger

Loss Control Specialist Jim Kronenberger, of New Bremen, Ohio, is involved in a laundry list of projects: village councilor, volunteer EMT, member of the New Bremen/New Knoxville Rotary club and Rotary International, assistant scoutmaster with the local Boy Scout troop, member of the Community Improvement Corporation …you get the idea.

Kronenberger says his faith is a huge motivating factor for helping others. And when it comes to volunteering as a teacher for Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Program, he's also motivated because he knows what it’s like to struggle financially. Years before having a wife and family, he lived out of his car for three weeks.

The seeds of volunteerism were planted when Kronenberger was young and admired the fire department volunteers in his small town. As an adult, Kronenberger became an EMT on the town ambulance crew.

“The best feeling is watching the reaction of a family of a person who's sick when you show up,” Kronenberger said. “The patient has that scared look in their face, but when you hold their hand, make them calm, it’s just amazing.”

“When it comes to times like that, it’s worth every penny I don’t get paid.”

Barb Baker

You might assume that Barb Baker, Grinnell Mutual’s director of Advertising and Community Relations, is involved in her community because it’s her job, but the opposite is true: Her job has evolved over the years to take advantage of her community involvement.

The arrangement has paid off. Baker says that over the years, Grinnell Mutual has been met by the community with open arms.

“I’m thankful to the company leadership for empowering me and trusting me enough to make the right decisions on its behalf,” Baker said.

Baker received the Iowa Women’s Foundation award, "Ovation 2020," a tribute to Iowa women and girls who have made a difference. And due in large part to Baker’s efforts, The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University, which houses Character Counts in Iowa, named Grinnell Mutual its 2020 Business of Character, for the six pillars of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and good citizenship.

Baker says she’s proud of the company’s collaboration with Grinnell College and the Grinnell area Chamber of Commerce to offer help in Grinnell and surrounding areas.

Time seems to be the only limit to Baker’s volunteer work. To accommodate her activities, she tries to devote daytime hours to corporate advertising, and evenings and weekends to her community involvement. Occasionally, she takes vacation time for organizations she's passionate about outside her work, such as her church and Leadership Iowa.

Baker says she enjoys what she does. “Over my 19 years officially in this role, I feel like I've grown a lot. The best way to be involved in the community is to surround myself with people who have that desire as well. I don’t believe in being involved unless I give 100 percent.”

Michelle Cooper

“If not me, then who?”

That’s the question Farm Casualty Underwriter Michelle Cooper poses when asked why she’s an Advanced EMT volunteer and ambulance director with New Sharon (Iowa) Fire and Rescue.

Cooper is just as passionate about her volunteer efforts as she is about raising awareness about the rapidly declining number of volunteer EMTs. She said she’s scared that someday — possibly soon — they’ll no longer be able to operate due to lack of staff and/or lack of funding.

“Ultimately, it comes down to being a good human being and instilling values in my children — giving them a sense of responsibility and letting them know that it’s not all about you.”

Cooper’s parents had the same philosophy. Her dad was a volunteer firefighter and fire chief for many years and her mom was on the foster care review board, as well as many other county boards. She has two brothers who are volunteer firefighters and one is also an EMT.

When Grinnell Mutual moved all its employees to work-from-home status because of the pandemic, Cooper said the company went above and beyond to help her out. She had no Internet at home and her fire chief agreed to let her work at the fire station.

“Then, she said, “I talked to my director and AVP and said, ‘I feel that because I'm using their Internet and electricity, that it's only right that if I get a call, I should go.’” They agreed.

In the two-and-a-half weeks she was at the station before getting things set up at home, she was able to help with a half-dozen calls.

She says the company has always supported her volunteer work, for example when she’s been up all night assisting with a fire call.

“The next morning if I'm running late, all I have to do is call and say, 'I have to shower and I’ll be in.'”

The most rewarding part, she says, is seeing someone from a distance that she’s helped, knowing she helped them through possibly the worst day of their life.

“I am only doing what I was raised to do: help where, when, and how I can. I’m not special. I’m just a little more vocal than others,” she said with a smile.

Bill Kostow

Claims adjuster Bill Kostow has been a big part of the Grinnell community in the role of coach — not only for baseball, softball, and the Upward Basketball program (he’s also on the Little League and Tiger Booster Club boards), but as a mentor and board member with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

What’s been his most rewarding volunteer experience?

“Anytime you’re working with kids, that goes to top of the list, Kostow said. “Once, my ‘little’s’ parents said that normally he fought going to bed at night and didn’t want to go to school — except on days he knew I was coming to visit him at lunchtime. Those days, they said, he was like a different person.

“I think he just enjoyed getting away from the lunchroom chaos — having someone to hang out with. But hearing that ... it was a feel-good moment.”

Kostow says that even during the interview process, he was impressed by how much helping others is part of the company culture.

"I let my manager know at the time that I might have conflicts with Big Brothers and the Poweshiek Leadership Program and asked whether I needed to scale back. The immediate answer was no — to keep volunteering,” Kostow said. “Then, during my training, my manager made a point to make note of my volunteer duties on the calendar so I could attend them. That was awesome.”

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