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2019 US Insurance Awards: BMS Re US, Community Outreach Project of the Year (donations)

Kristine Westall

Being a homeless teenager is not always something an insurance executive can relate to, unless they take the time to put themselves in another’s sleeping bag and cardboard box.

It’s what BMS Re US executives have been doing every year since 2015 in its companywide effort to support Covenant House International, a nonprofit organization that provides housing and support to young people facing homelessness and survivors of human trafficking.

One of the organization’s most notable fundraisers is its Sleep Out events held each year in 16 cities nationwide that provide donors and fundraisers an opportunity to sleep outside on concrete, provided with a sleeping bag, cardboard box and a plastic bag in case it rains.

“It’s a pretty moving experience, spending the evening like that … rain or shine,” said Kristine Westall, Minneapolis-based chief operating officer for BMS Re US, a unit of BMS Group, who has participated in the Covenant House Sleep Out three times in New York, which is where the organization is headquartered.

BMS Re US’s involvement in Covenant House stems from Chief Executive Officer Andrew Bustillo serving on the board of directors for Covenant House.

“It was clear he was really passionate about this,” she said, adding that BMS Re has its own social responsibility committee in which its Covenant House work fits.

BMS Re also offers employees time off to volunteer for Covenant House and other nonprofits. “It’s important for companies to think of ways they can give back to the community.”

Through Mr. Bustillo’s work, the insurance industry now has its own Sleep Out: (Re)Insurance Sleep Out, which encourages those in the industry to participate every September. In 2018, there were 16 teams and 92 participants who together raised over $400,000, and the BMS team alone has been the top fundraiser for the past two years raising over $105,000 each year and over $400,000 since 2015, according to the company.

BMS Re US also supports Casa Alianza, Covenant House International’s arm in Latin America, of which Mr. Bastillo now serves on the board. BMS has pledged to visit community sites in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, calling on service trip participants to donate a personal contribution or create a fundraising campaign of $3,000, the company says.


• CBIZ Benefits & Insurance Inc. — CBIZ sponsors a national food drive that has delivered millions of pounds of food to banks across the country.

• FM Global — FM Global’s employees at its corporate offices in Johnston, Rhode Island, set a record for their donations to United Way of Rhode Island. Its employees also spent hundreds of hours volunteering for a local community food bank and an organization working with homeless and at-risk individuals.

• Higginbotham Insurance Group Inc. — Through the Higginbotham Community Fund, Higginbotham partnered with the North Texas Community Foundation to provide monetary support to nonprofits operating in markets where it has offices, including 30 across Texas and one in Oklahoma City, donating to employees experiencing the impact of Hurricane Harvey and to health care organizations in honor of a colleague who passed away from leukemia.

• Philadelphia Insurance Cos. — Employees partner with the American Diabetes Association to help provide children with diabetes and their families access to needed medical care and medications.

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