As 2020 comes to a close, so does a great career for Debbie Hunter-Ellis AVP- Customer Service Manager. Debbie celebrated her 40th anniversary with California Casualty in July and at the end of this year will celebrate her much-deserved retirement.
We recently had the pleasure to (virtually) sit down with Debbie and discuss her life and her career at California Casualty. Here’s what she told us:
“I was born in Natchitoches, Louisiana home to the 1989 hit movie “Steel Magnolias”. I was raised in a military family and lived most of my life in Northern California.San Jose State University, home of the Spartans, is my alma mater. I graduated with a BA degree in Business Management. During college, I worked in the Career Center where I was responsible for organizing the on-campus interviews for graduates seeking employment with corporations in the Silicon Valley and Bay area region. This is where I came across California Casualty, who was recruiting college graduates. The family-owned business and their willingness to hire and train graduates fresh out of school was an attractive attribute.”
Debbie applied and soon started off as a Customer Service Representative in San Jose, where she learned about automobile and home insurance, and how to service customers on their policies.
After eight years in her Customer Service role, she was promoted to Customer Service Supervisor which quickly transitioned to a Customer Service Team Manager. At that time, she moved with California Casualty and had the honor to take part in the opening of our Colorado Springs Service Center.
Debbie said, “The opening of the Service Center was a rewarding experience. As a Customer Service Team Manager, I contributed to the development of processes and procedures, recruiting, guiding, and developing employees while meeting the customer and the company expectations.”Debbie managed a team of 10 – 15 Customer Care Specialist for over 20 years. And each year her team excelled at providing quality customer experience to California Casualty’s affinity group members. “The Customer Service Team Manager position is where I established a solid foundation for continuous learning and leadership development.” she said, “Furthermore; this provided the opportunity for the Customer Service Department Manager where I have been in this leadership role for the past 7 years.”
It’s a very great and rare occurrence when an employee reaches a milestone as great as their 40-year mark. When asked about her past four decades with California Casualty, she said, “I have seen and experienced a lot of positive change during the past 40 years. We have really achieved great heights! It is rare to say you have only worked for one company in your career. I’m humbled and grateful for the amazing opportunity and experience with California Casualty.”
Debbie said she will miss the unique culture that has developed over the years, but the strong relationships and the day-to-day interactions with the Customer Service Management Team and employees will never be forgotten.
And the Customer Service Department will never forget the impact Debbie has had on them. Debbie’s friends and peers, Vice President of Customer Service, Daphne Pavone, and Senior Customer Service and Agency Services Team Manager, Bianca Odom, had a few parting words they wanted to say to, and on behalf of, Debbie as she gets closer to her well-deserved retirement day.
“Debbie Hunter-Ellis is a wonderful person and an amazing co-worker. She cares about her colleagues and has spent her career focused on delivering quality customer service and developing her people. Debbie’s calm and professional demeanor makes her a natural ‘go-to’ for an additional and balanced perspective. I consider Debbie a colleague and a friend. Thank you, Debbie, it has been a true joy working with you! I wish you all of the best in this new chapter of life. -Daphne”
“Ever since I joined the Customer Service Team, Debbie has been a great mentor and friend. She has always been a leader that has demonstrated good judgment and sets an example for others to follow as she is hard-working, fair, honest, dependable, and understanding. I appreciate Debbie more than I could ever express and I’m sad to see her go; although I’m also very excited for this next step in her life. Congratulations Debbie! We will miss you! –Bianca”
In retirement, Debbie plans to spend her days traveling, enjoying outdoor activities, and exploring creative endeavors.
Enjoy every second of it, Debbie, you’ve earned it! We will all miss you and wish you the best. You’ll always be a part of the CalCas family; thank you for 40 years.
Every year, Impact Teen Drivers and California Casualty offer enrolled students, ages 14 to 22, the opportunity to win prizes for their original works (creative writing, video, graphic design, or music) showcasing creative solutions for preventing the #1 killer of their peers –reckless and distracted driving.
Distracted driving is anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, mind off driving, or keeps ears from being alert to surroundings. Commonly referred to as accidents, these crashes are actually 100% preventable.
The Create Real Impactcontest is a proactive movement to reduce poor decision making and inattentive driving by 16 to 19-year-olds that has become an epidemic. Empowering messages from young people urging their peers to adopt safer driving attitudes and avoid the tragic result of bad choices behind-the-wheel can save lives.
The Fall 2020 Create Real Impact contest winners were recently selected.
Prizes are awarded by a panel of qualified judges based on the following weighted criteria: 25% concept/creativity; 25% execution of the idea; 50% effectiveness of the message emphasizing solution(s).
The following students will receive $1,500 Grand Prize educational grants for their entries:
Impact Teen Drivers was founded in mid-2007 by the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, California Casualty, and the California Teachers Association. The organization has emerged as a leading non-profit organization dedicated to reversing the pervasive yet 100% preventable crisis of teens killed in car crashes. ITD’s mission is to develop, promote, and facilitate evidence-based education and strategies to save lives and reduce injuries and fatalities caused by reckless and distracted driving. To learn more visit www.ImpactTeenDrivers.org or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is furnished by California Casualty. We specialize in providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
The Holidays are over, and that means it’s time to find room for all of the new gifts that you received over the holidays. The easiest way to keep track of all of your possessions is creating- and continually updating- a Home Inventory.
A Home Inventory is a list of the valuable objects that you have inside of your home.
It may sound like a waste of time, but this list will be your saving grace if there is a fire, destructive storm, or if someone breaks in and steals your belongings. Without one, many people have a difficult time pinpointing or recalling everything that might have been destroyed or taken, and unfortunately, that can delay homeowner claims or keep you from getting your full compensation.
So, when the New Year rolls around make the time to take inventory of your home and all of your new treasures. It’s easy! Just go room by room and document:
Personal Care Items
Kitchen items and appliances
Beds and linens
Don’t forget to take pictures of the exterior of your home as well -photos are best from all angles- including the landscaping and any decks or porches- and also take note of everything in the garage, attic, or basement, like holiday ornaments, lawn and yard equipment, tools, etc.
You can choose to write everything down, but we suggest to use photo/video documentation of your belongings. To make the whole process easier on you we’ve created a Household Inventory Checklist that walks you through each possession you may have, so you don’t forget anything- you can even document the value. Just attach your photos to the document or put them in a folder on your phone and you are good to go! Click here for the checklist.
Trying to tally up what needs to be replaced is not something you want to do in the event of a claim, so taking the time to complete an inventory will be more than worth it. You can even use the time to get rid of the old and make room for all of the new!
As we head into the most wonderful time of the year, cybercriminals are gearing up for their busiest season. And this year, with so many of us working and schooling from home, they are counting on a bonanza of unsuspecting online targets.
While you are carefully crafting your holiday gift list (and checking it twice!) these criminals are perfecting their cyber scams, online fraud schemes, and identity theft plans.
So before you join the millions of others searching out those perfect stocking stuffers, check out these 10 tips to protect yourself and your family online.
1. Secure your home network – Use strong passwords and WPA2 or WPA3 encryption (see tips here to secure your network). Change your router/modem’s default name and pre-set password.
2. Update your antivirus software – Antivirus software is always being updated (thanks to a continuous stream of new threats) so make sure yours is up to date on all your household’s devices.
3. Use a password manager – Create strong passwords on all your devices and use a password manager to keep track. Consider using two-factor authentication to add an extra layer of protection.
4. Update your devices – Operating system and software updates often include security updates. Make sure your computers, tablets, and phones are all updated. Turn on auto-updates so you don’t have to think about it.
5. Use one or two credit cards and monitor them – Using just one or two cards for your holiday shopping will make it much easier to track purchases and spot any fraud early on. Some lenders will even alert you when your card logs transactions that are out of your normal spending pattern and ask your permission before completing the purchase. Mobile pay options such as Apple Pay or Google Pay also offer good protection because they use secure tokens instead of an actual card number.
6. Only shop reputable websites – Big brands and companies are more likely to have strong security on their sites’ transaction platform. But no matter the website, if a link, landing page or online shopping cart looks suspicious, log off immediately.
7. Watch for phishing – Phishing spikes during the holidays. These emails and texts usually look like they’re coming from a source or company you know. They typically ask for sensitive information such as personal or bank information and ask you to click on a link or attachment. Remember that government agencies and reputable companies will never ask you to send sensitive information this way. Delete these messages without clicking on anything. If you’re on the fence about its legitimacy, you can open a separate browser and log in to your account fresh – or call customer service to double-check.
8. Be smart on social media – If you’re headed out of town during the holidays, don’t post plans or info publicly on your social channels. This could make your home vulnerable to a break-in.
9. Be savvy with donations – Many people generously open their wallets during the holidays to help those in need or causes they support. If you’re planning on donating this year, be extra cautious. Stick to reputable, well-known charities. Contact them directly to donate, rather than clicking on a link or giving your information over the phone.
10. Watch your front porch – More online shopping means more deliveries. Bring packages in as soon as possible so they don’t tempt thieves. Neglected packages may also make it look like you’re out of town, making your home a target for burglars.
Make sure all family members are on board with, understand, and carry out the above tips before logging on to find those hot holiday deals. This includes kids and teens who are at home and on screens all day – and who usually aren’t as savvy about security and scams. For more safety tips, check out our articles here and here.
If you’re a California Casualty member, take comfort in the fact that you’re automatically enrolled in ID theft resolution services — which provides free help if you are ever the victim of identity theft. Learn more about the services here.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
Reducing your home energy usage is good for several reasons. First and foremost, it keeps money in your pocket. But it also lightens the load on local power grids and the environment — a win-win all around.
Try some or all of the 12 steps below to save on your energy bill while staying cozy and comfortable in your home. They’re easier than you think!
1.Let the Light Shine In
Use the sun’s heat (bonus: it’s free!) to your advantage! Open curtains and blinds on your south-facing windows during the day to let the heat in and then close them at sunset to keep it in.
2. Leak-Proof Your Home
Inspect your home for leaks (get tips from energy.gov on detecting air leaks here). Often invisible, leaks can wreak havoc on your energy bill. Use weather stripping and caulking to seal leaks and keep warm air inside. While you’re at it, insulate your ducts, which can be a significant source of heat loss.For windows that you rarely use during winter, get plastic window kits to further leak-proof.
3. Bump the Temp Down
Just by setting your thermostat a few degrees lower, you can immediately begin saving. Consider installing a programmable thermostat for even more time- and energy-efficiency.
4. Pay Attention to Your Water Heater
Water heaters account for about 17 percent of a home’s energy use – adding up to about $400-600 per year for the average household. Bring that down by:
using less hot water
setting your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees F.
buying an energy star model when it comes time to replace it
washing clothes in cold water
installing low-flow showerheads and faucets
5. Check the Fireplace
When not burning a fire, keep the damper closed. Consider installing tempered glass doors and an air exchange system that blows warm air back into the room. Check the seal on the flue damper and make sure it’s tightly sealed. Finally, add caulking around the hearth. If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the flue.
6. Maintain Your Heating System
Have a professional check and tune-up your heat pump or furnace once a year. This could lead to big savings. Make sure they also replace any clogged filters, which can make your furnace work harder, thereby raising energy costs (you can also check and replace filters yourself).
7. Close Unused Vents
In rooms that are rarely used, fully or partially close the vents to redirect heat to other rooms.
8. Use Ceiling Fans
Everyone knows heat rises, which means the air you’ve paid to heat rises and collects at the tops of rooms. This can be especially costly in homes that have high ceilings. Use your ceiling fans to push warm air downward – just make sure they’re set to run in a clockwise direction.
9. Check Your Insulation
If your attic doesn’t have at least 11 inches of insulation, you’ll most likely lose heat through the upper level of your home.
10. Recycle That Hot Air
After cooking, leave the oven door open a crack to let the heat help warm the house. Bonus? You get to savor the delicious smell of those cookies, baked goods, or dinner a little longer.
11. Space Heaters
Portable heaters are a good cost-saving option if you and your family are hanging out in one room for any length of time, or if you’re the only one home and are stationary (like working in a home office). But remember to use caution whenever using space heaters – according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, these heaters cause more than 25,000 residential fires per year. Follow the heater instructions carefully and always unplug them when not in use.
12. Bundle Up
Sweaters, socks, and cozy blankets really do make a difference.
By making a few tweaks in your home and modifying some behaviors, you’ll begin to see cost and energy savings in no time.
This afternoon Arlene Brown, California Casualty RUS Analyst, reaches a milestone in her career, that few ever see in their lifetime, as she celebrates her 50th anniversary as a full-time employee.
In recognition of this incredible achievement, Joe Volponi, President and CEO of California Casualty, honored Arlene in an email sent to all CalCas employees telling Arlene’s career story and highlighting the significant impact she has made at CalCas within her 50 years. Read an excerpt below.
“It is not often in this company (maybe never) that an employee reaches 50 years of service as a full-time employee. Arlene Brown will reach that incredible milestone and a well-deserved retirement on September 8th.
She started as a Coder, working with Assigned Risk paper files. She quickly progressed to become the Auto Coding Assistant Supervisor in charge of Assigned Risk and was given the nickname “Queen of Assigned Risk.” She worked with both agents, and customers, often remembering their names and policy numbers from year to year! Those were the days when every detail had to be transferred to a grid, which a keypunch operator entered. Rating was done by hand and with a 10 key calculator spitting out the answers on paper tape. Her other daily tool was a pro-rata wheel, a few relics of which still survive today, although they remain a mystery to those familiar with more modern devices.
Arlene’s reputation for accuracy followed her throughout her career. She was a strong underwriter who was frequently overheard teaching sales reps how to find the answer to their question in the underwriting manual (a large binder with hundreds of pages). Online reference tools didn’t exist back then, so it was a manual process. She didn’t just want to give an answer, but rather help them understand where to find the answer for next time.
Similar to the Guidewire conversion we are going through today, the company as gone through several system conversions in the span of 50 years. One such conversion to the Policy Management System (PMS), as part of that effort, she ultimately wrote much of the PMS manual that defined each field of entry into PMS. The effort of proofreading draft procedures for accuracy and consistency became known as “Arlene-a-sizing”.
Arlene was a founding member of the QAD team, a group formed to improve quality assurance of PMS (Series 2) entries. As things evolved, she was a natural to become part of the RUS team, when it was formed to oversee the automation of rating, underwriting, and system processing. She became an expert in writing QMF queries, and could apply them against different generations of the system since she was one of the few that had worked in all the different systems!
Aside from all her accomplishments on the insurance side of the business, she was a tireless worker on the In-Club committees that coordinated many employee events over the years. In addition to coordinating the details for these events, she put together photo albums to commemorate them.
Arlene considered California Casualty her family, and did everything in her power to bring success. In her half-century here, she’s touched many people in a variety of ways. People like her have made this company successful.”
Arlene’s successful career is full of many achievements, but one of her favorite memories in her time with CalCas is winning the well-deserved Carl G. Brown, Jr. Award of Excellence, which is an employee-nominated award given annually to an employee whose sustained excellent contribution to the company is matched by a substantial contribution to his or her community.
When asked what the secret is to her 50-year career, she says, “It’s true what ‘they’ say about loving what you do – the time just flies. When you love your job it leads to honing your skills, seeing opportunities to improve things (processes), and finding the needles in haystacks to resolve system/policy problems. That being said, I couldn’t do the job I’ve done without the support of my work family.”
And we couldn’t do it without you, Arlene. Congratulations, and thank you for all you have done for California Casualty. You have helped turn us into the company we are today. Your presence in the office will be missed each and every day. Have a great retirement!
Get a $25 gift card when you complete an auto quote with a representative.
*Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. One gift card per household, per year. Offer not valid when a California Casualty policy is already in force. Offer not valid in FL, GA, MD, NC, ND, TN and UT.
Offer not available to United MileagePlus® Members.