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Ohio's 2018 Outstanding CSR of the Year award winner announced

2018 Outstanding CISR of the Year logoAUSTIN, TX – Each year, a group of exceptional insurance professionals are chosen by The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research to represent their states and compete to become the National Outstanding CSR of the Year.

This prestigious award, regarded as the foremost national award of its kind, recognizes the contributions and commitment of those who serve clients within the insurance industry.

To qualify for the top state honor, the 2018 candidates submitted an essay on the following topic:

“In today’s business environment, CSRs are finding that more work is required from a smaller staff pool. As a CSR, what four ways have you found beneficial in helping you accomplish work tasks while still providing excellent customer service? In short, how do you do more with less?”

Additionally, entrants must have demonstrated commendable service to their agencies, their industry, and their community. The only eligibility requirement for this award is that the candidate must be an insurance customer service representative or have primary responsibility for insurance customer service duties.

“The Outstanding CSR of the Year Award recognizes the annual exemplar for exceptional customer service representatives across the nation,” said Danielle Janecka, Senior Vice President of The National Alliance.

“Through their essays, contributions to their agencies, and their letters of recommendation, every one of the state winners helps to raise the standard for personal and professional excellence. We honor them for their clear contributions to their colleagues, teams, and organizations. They are the face of customer service for our whole industry.”

Each state winner receives a framed certificate and is eligible to compete for the national honor, which carries a $2,000 cash award, a gold and diamond pin, $1,000 cash award for the nominator, and a scholarship for the recipient’s employer to any program offered by The National Alliance.

Additionally, the name of the Outstanding CSR of the Year is inscribed on a sculpture permanently displayed at the national headquarters of The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research in Austin, Texas.

State Winners:

State Name Agency
Arizona Kathleen A. Dragan Hill Insurance Services, LLC
California Jenny Chea-Vaing, CISR Singlepoint Insurance Services, Inc.
Delaware Maria T. Metcalfe, CISR Bellevue Insurance Services, LLC
Florida Catrin Liffner Beck Partners Insurance
Illinois Sara K. Mancini, CISR Elite, AIS Market Financial Group, Ltd, a division of
Arthur J. Gallagher
Indiana Amanda Stoller Ovation Insurance
Iowa Jeremy Smith, CIC, CISR The Accel Group
Kansas Kimberly Andersen, CISR J. Goodman Insurance Agency
Kentucky Brandy Marcum Market Finders Insurance Corporation
Louisiana Kristen G. Fligg, CISR Amerisafe
Maine Lori Duval F.A. Peabody Company
Maryland Gregory A. Clem HUB International Mid-Atlantic, Inc.
Michigan Brian St. Charles, CISR Michigan Community Insurance Agency
Minnesota Starr L. Marshall, CISR Reliable Agency
Mississippi Laura A. Freeman, CISR Fisher Brown Bottrell Insurance, Inc.
Nebraska Michele Koehler, CISR Integrity Insurance Group
North Carolina Teresa P. Gedraytis, CIC, CISR James E. Moore Insurance Agency, Inc.
Ohio Beth Ann Mitchell Lauber & Will Insurance Agency
Oregon Kendall I. Pori, CIC Protectors Insurance, LLC
Pennsylvania Ashley M. Fitzsimmons, CISR Fitzsimmons Insurance Agency, Inc.
South Carolina Anna M. Kocuba, CISR Kinghorn Insurance of Beaufort
Tennessee Elizabeth A. Wilkins Martin & Zerfoss Insurance
Texas Linda M. Dailey Insurance Partners/SWBC
Utah Stephanie Holden, CISR, CPSR SentryWest Insurance Services
Vermont Katie LaFreniere, CISR Crowley Insurance Agency
Washington Amy Hayes Duncan & Associates, Inc.
Wisconsin Stacey M. Migliano, CISR The Trottier Insurance Group
Wyoming Cindy Gerhold HUB International


The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research, the nation’s premier provider of advanced educational opportunities for insurance and risk management professionals, includes the Certified Insurance Counselors (CIC) Program, the Certified Risk Managers (CRM) Program, the Certified Insurance Service Representatives (CISR) Program, the Certified Personal Risk Managers Program (CPRM), the Certified School Risk Managers (CSRM) Program, the Dynamics Sales Training Series, the School for Producer Development, and The National Alliance Research Academy.

For further information, contact:

The National Alliance
P.O. Box 27027
Austin, Texas 78755-2027
phone: (800) 633-2165
website: TheNationalAlliance.com


A mission to support kids with cancer, one race at a time

Ashley Winebrenner receives OIA Community Service AwardFor Ashley Winebrenner, making a difference for children with brain cancer has become a true calling in life.

Winebrenner, an independent agent at Dwyer Insurance Agency in London, OH, started Rockin’ on the Run, an annual walk/run to raise awareness about the prevalence of childhood brain tumors and raise money for research.

Now heading into its ninth year, Rockin’ on the Run brings in more than 500 participants and has raised more than $112,000 for pediatric brain cancer research.

Because of her selfless efforts, Winebrenner is the recipient of OIA’s prestigious 2017 Community Service Award.
 

“Our only goal was to create a memorable experience where Reagyn could have fun, just be a kid and forget about her cancer for the day.” Ashley Winebrenner


Coming together for a great cause

Inspired by a family friend’s daughter, Reagyn, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in 2009, Rockin' on the Run survivors and volunteersWinebrenner decided it was time to take action.

“When Reagyn was diagnosed with a brain tumor, we just felt so helpless – she was only five years old,” Winebrenner says. “I always thought brain tumors were very rare, but I soon realized how many children are being diagnosed with this disease every day.”

According to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, about 4,600 children are diagnosed with a brain tumor each year.

Winebrenner, along with her mom Johnda and Reagyn’s mom Carol, founded Rockin’ on the Run in 2010 to bring members of the community together to support Reagyn and other children battling this devastating disease.

“The three of us were at a walk/run supporting cancer research in Columbus, and we thought, ‘Why can’t we do this in London?’ she says. “We’re a small community and everyone knows Reagyn and her family. That’s how the idea for Rockin’ on the Run was born.”

During its first year, Rockin’ on the Run brought in more than 100 participants and raised $4,500 for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.

“In the beginning, we had no idea what we were doing – just flying by the seat of our pants,” Winebrenner says with a laugh. “Our only goal was to create a memorable experience where Reagyn could have fun, just be a kid and forget about her cancer for the day.”
 

Giving back runs in the family

Winebrenner is part of a family passionate about community service. “When I was growing up, I was taught that you work hard and give back,” she says.

Funny group of volunteers at Rockin' on the RunThroughout her life, Winebrenner also experienced firsthand the importance of independent agents and the dedication and passion they bring not just to their clients but to their local communities.

Winebrenner’s great grandfather, Paul Dwyer, founded Dwyer Insurance Agency in 1931. In fact, Dwyer Insurance is the oldest family-run agency in Madison County.

Today, her father, Bill Beathard, is the agency owner. An independent agent for more than 40 years, Beathard has been an active member of his local community for many years, from volunteering on London City Council to the Madison County Emergency Medical District.

Following in both of their footsteps, Winebrenner understands the vital role that independent agents play as pillars in the local community.

“To keep the small town community spirit and hometown feel, events like Rockin’ on the Run are so important,” she says. “They let everyone know we might be busy with the hustle and bustle of daily life, but we are always here to support one another.”
 

‘This has become my mission’

Now, as a mother of three children (and a fourth on the way in April), Winebrenner says she is even more Participant at Rockin' on the Runmotivated to make a difference for children battling brain cancer.

“I was pregnant with my first daughter during our inaugural race,” she explains. “Once I had my daughter, I was so appreciative that she was healthy. I can’t imagine what parents of sick kids are going through. This has become my mission.”

Rockin’ on the Run now raises funds for Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. Participants can choose whether they want their money to go toward the hospital’s cancer research efforts or the “fun fund,” which helps make a child’s stay more pleasant.

For example, the “fun fund” is used for art therapy, music therapy, holiday parties and gift cards for parents who commute a far distance. This fund is also used to pay for a teacher to work at the hospital in the summertime to help children catch up on their studies.

“We’ve formed a great relationship with Nationwide Children’s Hospital,” Winebrenner says. “We have two research doctors that speak at our event and participate in the race. They talk to the public about how the funds are used for cutting-edge research right here in Central Ohio.”
 

A milestone in the making

With Rockin on the Run’s 10th anniversary coming up in 2019, Winebrenner is excited for what the future holds. Rockin' on the Run Race DayThe nonprofit’s donation goal increases each year, and plans to start a second race in a different community are in discussion.

“Our 10th year is going to be really special for us,” Winebrenner recalls. “I’ve actually never run our race, so maybe I’ll lace up my running shoes to celebrate this milestone.”

As Rockin’ on the Run continues to grow each year, Winebrenner meets more and more children with brain tumors – moments that reinforce her dedication to the nonprofit’s mission.

“We had a very sick little girl come to our race who was getting ready to start treatment,” Winebrenner says. “We introduced her to Reagyn, who is now 16 years old, which gave her a light at the end of the tunnel. Hope that she won’t always feel sick. This is what Rockin’ on the Run is all about.”

To learn more about Rockin' on the Run, visit their Facebook page.


Ashland independent insurance agent receives Lifetime Achievement Award

COLUMBUS, OH – According to Rick Spreng, owner of Ashland-based Spreng-Smith Insurance Agency, “my business is a ministry to members of my community.” Ohio Insurance Agents Association presented Spreng with the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award for his lifetime of leadership to the association, insurance industry and local community.

“There is no better business than the agency business to know people and work with them in the best and worst times in their lives,” Spreng says. “When I started in this business, I didn’t know anything about insurance. And now, after 46 years and a few days from retirement, I can honestly say I am blessed. This career path has provided me with the opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of others.”

For over 40 years, Spreng has been involved in the independent agency system. He has been an association leader since he was first elected to represent Ohio Big I District 6 back in 2002. He served as president of the Big I Board from 2008 to 2009. He was elected to the merged Ohio board in 2013, and will conclude his service at the end of this year. Spreng has served as Big I National Director representing Ohio members on the IIABA National Board, which sets the strategic direction and policy of IIABA. While serving on the Trusted Choice Board of Directors, he helped to educate the public on the value of an independent insurance agent

“As I end my career, it's valuable to reflect on my experiences,” Spreng says. “God has placed me with those that have lost loved ones, had debilitating injury, experienced divorce, lost all of their material possessions, and many other difficult issues. I have been personally blessed by the strength of people. Insurance is an honorable business that hopefully has made me a better person.”

Spreng is passionate about making a difference in his community. His volunteer leadership involvement includes President of United Way of Ashland County as well as Campaign Chairman, President of the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce, President of the Rotary Club, President of the Brethren Care Village, a long-term care facility in Ashland, Vice President of the Boy Scouts of America Johnny Appleseed Council and lay leader of the Trinity Lutheran Church of Ashland. He has also served on the board of the Ashland University Alumni Association.

Spreng’s proudest volunteer leadership experience was chairing the Ashland Bicentennial Celebration, along with his wife Kim. He also chaired the 175th community celebration where he founded the Ashland BalloonFest, which has become one of the premier annual festivals in Ohio. Spreng managed this event for the first 10 years. “Bringing an entire community together is a great experience,” Spreng says. “I am proud to be a part of such as wonderful tradition.”


Ohio Insurance Agents Association 

Ohio Insurance Agents Association (OIA) is the collective voice of 1,400 independent agencies that employ nearly 10,000 Ohioans. We promote, progress and protect the professional advice and guidance only independent insurance agents provide. OIA members write 82 percent of the commercial insurance policies and 44 percent of personal insurance policies in Ohio. Our purpose is to help our member agencies protect consumers and employers by offering them access to the best resources, tools and professional development programs available. OIA serves our members in four key areas: advocacy, professional development, business solutions and industry thought leadership.


Leading Advocate for Ohio Consumers Receives Insurance Industry Award

COLUMBUS, OH – Barbara Sears, Assistant Director for the Office of Health Transformation, is a leading advocate for important insurance issues impacting Ohio consumers. The Ohio Insurance Agents Association has awarded Sears the 2016 Independence Bell Award for her positive contributions to the insurance industry.

“Barbara Sears has a unique ability and knack for digging into the details of public policy issues,” says Jeff Smith, Director of Government Affairs and General Counsel at the Ohio Insurance Agents Association. “Her incredible knowledge on many issues, including insurance and Ohio’s workers’ compensation system, is unmistakable. She has been a leading advocate on several public policy issues that are critical to both Ohio consumers and independent insurance agents.”

Prior to her current role with the Office of Health Transformation, Sears was the Majority Floor Leader for the past three legislative sessions and a long-time independent insurance agent focused on employee health benefits. She was a co-sponsor for the Responsible Driver Protection Act, which seeks to protect responsible Ohio drivers who have been in an accident with an uninsured motorist. She chaired the House Insurance Committee when this bill was passed in the legislature.

To protect consumers, she was lead sponsor for the certificates of insurance bill (H.B. 259), which prohibits falsified or altered certificates of insurance. She was also a lead sponsor for H.B. 493, which established the Workers’ Compensation Other States Coverage Program in Ohio. In addition, Sears sponsored Ohio’s health insurance navigator bill (H.B. 3), which established regulations for navigators involved in helping consumers choose a health insurance plan on the exchange.

“I am very honored to receive the 2016 Independence Bell Award from the Ohio Insurance Agents,” Sears says. “Throughout my career, I have always been passionate about helping to elevate the professionalism of Ohio’s robust and competitive insurance industry, and help make a positive impact in the lives of Ohio consumers.”

Sears is a member of the Sylvania Chamber of Commerce, the Northwest Ohio Association of Health Underwriters and Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society. She is also past president of the Toledo Independent Insurance Agents and Insurance Women of Toledo.


Ohio Insurance Agents Association

Ohio Insurance Agents Association (OIA) is the collective voice of 1,400 independent agencies that employ nearly 10,000 Ohioans. We promote, progress and protect the professional advice and guidance only independent insurance agents provide. OIA members write 82 percent of the commercial insurance policies and 44 percent of personal insurance policies in Ohio. Our purpose is to help our member agencies protect consumers and employers by offering them access to the best resources, tools and professional development programs available. OIA serves our members in four key areas: advocacy, professional development, business solutions and industry thought leadership.


Westerville independent insurance agent gives back to local military families

COLUMBUS, OH – For Chris Callen, president of Chris D. Callen Insurance Agent in Westerville, giving back to military families is a true calling.

A Vietnam War veteran who received the U.S. Army’s highest honor – The Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Bronze Star – Callen has personally walked in the shoes of those he helps with his nonprofit, The Callen Foundation. Because of his work with the Foundation, Callen is the recipient of the OIA Community Service Award, which recognizes an Ohio independent insurance agent making a positive impact in his or her community.

“As a former U.S. Army Combat Infantryman in Vietnam, I have seen the sacrifices our military families are required to make in order to serve our country and protect all of us, especially when the main breadwinner is called to duty overseas,” Callen says. “Like most Americans, we tend to forget the special price others pay for us on our behalf, especially those in the Ohio National Guard who are forced to leave good paying jobs to do tours overseas for extremely low pay. As our family has been blessed with a successful insurance business, we felt that it was time to give back.”

Established in 2011, The Callen Foundation provides short-term financial support to Ohio military families with urgent needs, such as food and basic living necessities, late bill payments, baby care items and emergency household repairs. In fact, 100 percent of donations to the foundation go directly to Ohio military families. “In 2010, when preparing Christmas gift lists for our family, my wife Lynn and I decided that no one in our family needed gifts and we should focus our efforts on helping Ohio military families,” Callen says. “It was then that we founded a 501c3 non-profit corporation to help us accomplish our goal.”

The Callen Foundation provides assistance to an average of four or five military families each month. In some cases, the servicemen and women have suffered serious, even career-ending, injuries. Other times, the main bread winner is serving in a combat zone and the spouse has no family or friends to rely on for support. For example, one military family relocated to the Columbus area from the south and could not afford winter boots for their seven children. Upon receiving this request, Callen and staff members from his insurance agency immediately went shopping for seven pairs of boots.

“With our foundation, we have found a niche that wasn’t being served,” Callen says. “Unlike most nonprofits supporting the military, The Callen Foundation doesn’t require recipients to be veterans or have experience serving overseas. For many servicemen and women who serve part-time in the National Guard or Reserve, it can be difficult to find and keep employment with trainings held throughout the year and the possibility of being called into active duty at any time.”

Callen works closely with the Ohio National Guard’s Family Readiness and Warrior Support Program to connect with local servicemen and women who need emergency assistance after all other options have been exhausted. Many times, The Callen Foundation is the last line of defense for these families.

“The Callen Foundation has helped many service members and their families with emergency needs,” says Captain Doug Franz of the Ohio National Guard. “In most cases, the majority of these requests have been resolved within 24 hours or less. The Callen Foundation continues to be a great partner that can be called on to assist service members who may not qualify for any assistance through other local agencies.”


Ohio Insurance Agents Association

Ohio Insurance Agents Association (OIA) is the collective voice of 1,400 independent agencies that employ nearly 10,000 Ohioans. We promote, progress and protect the professional advice and guidance only independent insurance agents provide. OIA members write 82 percent of the commercial insurance policies and 44 percent of personal insurance policies in Ohio. Our purpose is to help our member agencies protect consumers and employers by offering them access to the best resources, tools and professional development programs available. OIA serves our members in four key areas: advocacy, professional development, business solutions and industry thought leadership.

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