Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company (GMRC) employees waved, held up signs of encouragement, honked and sent well wishes to President and CEO, Jeff Menary, as a parade of cars rolled by the Menary home in Grinnell on Thursday, April 30.
The parade was a team effort. Barb Baker came up with the idea, Lori Smith helped with the execution and Dan McCue was there to video and take photos.
“I did not have a clue that this parade was happening until Renee gave me some bells to ring as the cars rolled by,” said Menary, who is confined to a wheelchair from the effects of West Nile disease. “I was so surprised and shocked at the effort our staff made to create such a fun event.”
The event drew more than 100 vehicles and an estimated 250 employees and their families participated.
The parade was extra special for Menary as GMRC employees transitioned to work-from-home status in mid-March due to COVID-19.
“As team members mostly working from our homes, we missed our daily interactions, especially with our president and CEO, Jeff Menary,” noted a company representative. “Jeff often mentioned during our virtual company meetings how much he missed seeing us. It was pretty easy to come up with the idea of a spontaneous parade so that we could all say hello to Jeff—from a safe distance. Special thanks to the school district and police department for assisting us.”
“Grinnell Mutual has the greatest group of employees in the world,” noted Menary. “They care and support one another every day. I know that they enjoyed doing something unique like this and having the opportunity to see each other as they staged the parade in the high school parking lot. I was touched as they paraded past our home. I miss them. Our staff and I cannot wait until life returns to normal, which will allow me to see them every day at our office.”
Menary joined GMRC in 1980 as marketing representative and has worked as a marketing and reinsurance manager of the Iowa/Wisconsin Region, director of underwriting and production, assistant vice president of commercial lines, vice president of Direct Underwriting/Production and vice president of Reinsurance.
“I have enjoyed each position that I have held at Grinnell Mutual,” he said. “The most enjoyable part of every job that I have held is having the opportunity to help others and to make a difference. It is a great day when you can actually make a difference in someone else’s life. We must all strive to leave things a little bit better than when we found them, both in our business and personal lives.”
Menary and his wife, Renee, who he calls his rock, will celebrate 39-years of marriage in June. The couple met at the United Methodist Church in their hometown of Williamsburg.
“This is the church that both of our families attended,” said Menary. “Later, we became high school friends. We dated some when I was in college, went our separate ways, and rediscovered each other after I graduated from college.”
The couple has two children, Jessica, who resided in Sitka, Alaska and worked at a fine arts camp there, before returning to Grinnell after Menary became sick with West Nile in September 2017.
“She helped me daily during my recovery,” noted Menary. “She did so many things at the Craig Rehabilitation Hospital (Denver), that many thought she was a staff member. She is currently an assistant at Pow I-80 and is working to become a real estate agent.”
The couple’s son, Ben, is a counseling director for Pathways and is living in Rolla, Mo. with his wife, Sarah, and their two children, Baylor, 7, and Quinn, 5.
Down the Road
Menary said the GMRC staff has done a remarkable job moving to work-from-home status and has continued to provide the same outstanding service levels to customers as before COVID-19.
“This will allow us the luxury of waiting until we are certain it is safe for our employees to return to our Grinnell, Newton and West Des Moines offices,” said Menary. “Our decision will be based upon statewide information that we monitor daily.”
“When we went to work-from-home status, we had two primary objectives – to protect our staff and to continue to serve our customers,” Menary added. “We will maintain this same focus when we make the decision to return to our campuses.”
Menary said he wants to encourage everyone, saying that we will get through this pandemic crisis.
“This is difficult for all of us, especially those families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19,” noted Menary. “Our greatest generation faced so many difficult circumstances, but the entire country was focused on one objective and pulled together to make that happen. We need to do the same and make certain we support each other. I would also encourage everyone to thank our local medical professionals and their families. They are our true heroes.”