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RIMS volunteers aid local children

RIMS volunteers aid local children

More than 80 conference attendees and exhibitors participated in the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.'s sixth annual Community Service Day, assembling care packages for at-risk children in the Philadelphia area at the Cradles to Crayons “Giving Factory.”

During the event, which was sponsored by Zurich, RIMS conference attendees sorted, cleaned and packaged clothing, toys, books, and school supplies that were donated to Cradles to Crayons, a nonprofit organization that partners with 350 social-service organizations to distribute much-needed items to low-income and homeless children.

In 2011, Cradles to Crayons served 40,175 children, distributing 13,000 KidPacks, which include a week's worth of everyday essentials.

“There's overwhelming demand for our services,” said Michal Smith, executive director for Cradles to Crayons in West Conshohocken, Pa.

One in five children in Philadelphia lives in poverty, Ms. Smith said, noting that the children Cradles to Crayons serves often come from families with annual incomes below $15,000.

“These are very needy children, these are children who are the victims of domestic violence, and they're children that perhaps had to leave home in the dead of night without anything on them except the pajamas on their backs,” she said. “We can provide them with school supplies, with warm clothing, books and toys, so there's some kind of normalcy in their lives, and they can go to school.”

Community Service Day attendees helped assemble KidPacks, which can be customized based on a child's needs through an online ordering system. Working next to a pile of clothing 15 feet high, the volunteers sorted and inspected various garments for rips and stains and to ensure that zippers and buttons worked properly.

“Everything you touch and handle will shortly be in the hands of children,” said Kristen Gowling, volunteer coordinator at the nonprofit organization, explaining the sorting system to volunteers before packaging items for distribution.

Among the volunteers were insurance and risk management students from Illinois State University's Katie School of Insurance and Financial Services in Normal.

Debbie Babcock, associate director for the Katie School, said bringing students to RIMS' community service events is a top priority for the school, which has attended the event since its start in 2007.

“Students have a sense of community and giving back,” she said. “They see the value of doing this.”

“The fact that people can come and contribute at RIMS to show us the impact that corporate social responsibility does have on the community…is really great,” said Ashley Rieger, a senior at the Katie School majoring in insurance and finance. “Although we had to wake up a little earlier than everyone else, we're happy to give back.”

Dan Pettie, a junior insurance and finance student at the Katie School, said the Community Service Day was an excellent opportunity to give back to the community. “I had no idea that the poverty levels were at this level,” he said. “I'm just very happy to be a part of something like this.”

The items at Cradles to Crayons' facility in West Conshohocken were donated by various local communities.

In addition, RIMS and Zurich North America Commercial and Zurich Global Corporate in North America collected many donated items in advance, and collection bins have been placed throughout the convention center during the conference.

“This is the first year Zurich is partnering with RIMS for this event,” said Mike Kerner, New York-based CEO of Zurich Global Corporate in North America.

“It's really a fitting way for us to get started at RIMS in 2012 here in Philadelphia and to be able to partner with Cradles to Crayons and RIMS to do this.”