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Farm Bureau employees donate $52,000 for coronavirus relief

By John O’Connell

Idaho State Journal

POCATELLO — Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho and its statewide workforce raised nearly $52,000 in one week to help businesses and individuals struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Todd Argall, executive vice president and CEO of the insurance company, challenged his workers in an email sent on March 24 to donate to help their communities or have funds withheld from their paychecks.

He pledged the company would evenly match their contributions of up to $5,000 for each team. The teams include the Pocatello main office, Eastern Idaho, Magic Valley, Treasure Valley and Northern Idaho.

The fundraiser had reached about $52,000 by the following Tuesday. LeAnn Nelson, assistant to Argall, said the insurance company also matched contributions from some Idaho Farm Bureau Federation employees, and the federation's Idaho Young Farmers and Ranchers Association made a generous contribution.

Nelson said the insurance company's agents and their staffs also participated. 

Nelson said members of each team are voting on which causes they'll support with their contributions, and some teams may opt to support more than one cause.

She said the Pocatello office, for example, is leaning toward buying gift cards from local businesses that have lost revenue due to the outbreak in order to give the cards away to local health care workers and others who are responding to the outbreak. 

On March 25, Gov. Brad Little issued an order for people to stay at home, except for essential trips, and for businesses deemed to be nonessential to close. Restaurants have been allowed to remain open for carry-out or deliveries only. Statewide unemployment claims have increased at record levels. 

Nelson said the Pocatello team well exceeded its goal, raising more than $11,000. 

Nelson said employees had the option of having their contributions deducted over the course of up to four pay periods. 

"A lot did $100. Two employees donated $1,000 (each). It amazed me," Nelson said. 

Nelson said the Northern Idaho team has expressed interest in supporting a local food bank. Another team is looking into devising a way to help out-of-work waiters and waitresses.