Shelter Insurance Co. has been a presence in Columbia for nearly 75 years. During that time, Shelter has repeatedly demonstrated its dedication to the community through its support of education, diversity and social justice.

We spoke with Rick Means, chief executive officer and chairman of the board, and Matt Moore, president and chief operating officer, about the company’s role in the community.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Why is Corporate Citizenship important to Shelter Insurance?

Means: Coming up through the claims department, you learn what insurance is about, but you also learn customer service and how important it is. As you go on in your career you really learn how we’re good corporate citizens, and that means a lot as well.

Moore: It’s helping people, and we have an opportunity to make an impact in this community through that process and not only just through our product. The needs are great in this community, the poverty level in our community is great, there’s just multiple issues. I think people look at Columbia as this really affluent town and in some respects it is, but there’s also a very different side of Columbia that I believe we have an obligation and an opportunity to impact. It goes back to doing the right thing; we have the ability to do it so we need to do it.

Means: Insurance is about a promise. We want to deliver on that promise, but we also want to within the communities where we live, work and play do what we can to help our agents and our employees in those areas. That helps us deliver on that promise as well. We want to sell insurance, and we want people to buy insurance from us and we want all that kind of stuff, but at the same time, we want to do what we can to make a difference in those communities.

How does Shelter select which events to sponsor and which nonprofits to donate to?

Means: It’s not an easy process because we get a lot of opportunities and try to do as much as we can. Through our Shelter Foundation, we try to support a lot of not-for-profits. We have a committee that reviews the requests and votes one which ones to support. The ones that have the biggest impact with us are the ones that our employees and agents are involved in that help children, but again we look at all of them and sometimes it’s a tough choice because of how many requests we get.

Moore: I would add that we’re not just in Columbia, we’re in 20 states as well so we have to be a little sensitive to that too. We get involved with other organizations throughout our operating territory through our foundation. As Rick said, we really look for organizations where our employees are involved in leadership or are contributing themselves. Those are some of the things that we look at when we make some of those decisions.

How does Shelter Insurance encourage its employees to be active in their community?

Means: I think a lot of that starts at the top with leadership because they see us involved and our leadership group has done a great job from that standpoint. Matt was the president of the Boys and Girls Club for a while, I’m going to be the president of the REDI board over the next year, one of our executive vice presidents Teresa Magruder has headed up United Way for the last 12 months or so, and I can go right on down the list. I think that when our employees see that our leadership team is involved, they want to get involved. In the communities where they’re living, they see the need and they want to do what they can. We encourage that and try to support as much of that as we can as well. We’ve got groups in our home office that go out and look for ways they can volunteer and help out.

What does being nominated for this award mean to Shelter Insurance?

Means: We’re not too far away from being 75 years old, and for that 75 years our home office has been right here in Columbia. We want to do what we can to support the community because the community supports us. That’s very important to us. The people in this community have treated us well and hopefully as both individuals and a corporation we treat the community well too. We’ve never thought of moving out of this community and probably never will because it’s such a great place to live.

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