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Changing a Community
Takes Good Neighbors

From her first time visiting SkillsUSA’s national conference,
Kelly Bever of State Farm Insurance Companies was hooked. Now SkillsUSA is reeling in the benefits for our members.

Fill in the blanks: “Like a good neighbor … is there.” Chances are you just said, “State Farm.” Maybe you even sang your answer to the melody of a familiar jingle. But when a company has had a well-known slogan for years, how can you know it’s deeply ingrained and not just well-intentioned window dressing? In the case of State Farm Insurance Companies, it only takes a conversation with Kelly Bever — a conversation about SkillsUSA.

“For us at State Farm, a better community is an educated and skilled community,” says Bever, property and casualty claims director at the corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Ill. “SkillsUSA is a perfect fit for what we’re trying to do to make a difference.”

Since 1991, State Farm has donated nearly $700,000 to SkillsUSA programs, and dozens of State Farm employees have served as technical committee members and judges for SkillsUSA contests. And, after witnessing her first national conference in 2006, Bever has played a key role in the expansion of that support.

“It was an instant hook,” she says of her first experience attending the conference. “I had goose bumps, seeing the incredible pride in the kids. I walked away thinking, ‘What can I do to bring more State Farm volunteers to assist and to increase our level of support?’”

One of the first things Bever did was join SkillsUSA’s board of directors, where she currently serves as a business and industry representative.

“It gave me the chance to do so much more,” she says, “starting with increasing our monetary contribution, which we were able to do this year.” State Farm didn’t just increase its contribution — it doubled it, from $75,000 to $150,000.

But Bever isn’t satisfied with monetary contributions alone. “Where we’re going now is a grassroots effort to make starter connections at the state level,” she explains. “We now have a State Farm person working with Tennessee and another with Illinois. I just think there are a lot of things we can do connecting besides just the monetary piece.”

Bever’s passion for SkillsUSA remains rooted in that first conference experience. She hasn’t missed one since; in fact, she’s been bringing other State Farm representatives with her each year.

“I have no worries about the future of America after seeing those students,” she emphasizes. “I hope you can tell by my voice that I’m just absolutely hooked, so we’ll keep looking for opportunities to continue contributing to SkillsUSA’s continued success.”

Yep, in a tough world, it sure helps to have good neighbors.

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SkillsUSA Champions | Winter 2009 | Volume 43, No. 2
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