Flooded with Support
How Farrell Agencies Ltd. united a Saskatchewan city
On July 1, 2010, Dave Nussbaumer was at a Saskatchewan Roughriders game in Regina when he checked his phone and noticed he’d missed over 20 calls. As a partner of Farrell Agencies Ltd. in Yorkton, SK, for over 20 years, Nussbaumer is no stranger to a busy schedule and frequent calls from his insurance clients. But that Canada Day was different.
“I knew it was something serious,” says Nussbaumer. “I started reading my texts, and friends from Yorkton were saying they just got six inches of rain and water was filling their basement. They wanted to know what to do.”
It was a beautiful day in Regina, but in Yorkton—a two hour drive away—a torrential downpour had caused flash flooding and devastated the city of 19,000. By the time it was over, the massive storm turned streets to rivers and forced people from their homes. A state of emergency was declared, homes and businesses were destroyed, and power and phone service was knocked out.
Amid the chaos, Farrell Agencies Ltd., Yorkton’s largest insurance brokerage, stepped in. “That first week was all about prioritizing,” says Nussbaumer. “Our staff was incredible. They worked overtime and set up a booth at the hockey rink, helping people make plans—everything from meeting with adjusters to finding somewhere to stay.”
Over the next year, rebuilding was underway, but the downtown core—the worst-hit area—remained muddy and vacant. Concerned, Nussbaumer met with local government in June 2011 to discuss plans for rejuvenating the area. He learned that a proposed skateboard park and outdoor space was off the table due to lack of funding. “Right then, I thought about the Aviva Community Fund. I walked up to the mayor and said ‘if I win this competition, will you donate land for the skateboard park?’ ” The mayor went one step further by promising to match the $150,000 grant. Now all Nussbaumer had to do was win.
The Aviva Community Fund, an online grant competition that invites Canadians to submit and vote on ideas for positive change, was kicking off its third year in September 2011. Working closely with the city, Nussbaumer submitted an idea for the “Yorkton Skate, Bike and Walking Park” and started tapping into his network. With plans for walking paths and common areas, the park would be a much-needed fresh start for the area. “So many were affected by the flood,” remarked Nussbaumer. “We just had to convince everyone, young or old, that this park would help everyone.”
Knowing he couldn’t do it alone, Nussbaumer and his staff formed a committee to promote the idea and involved students, businesses and the local skateboard association. They handed out flyers, used social media, and created a video featuring Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and local Yorkton celebrities—Olympic gold medallist Joan McCusker, Mount Everest summiteer Dave Rodney, and NHL star Jarret Stoll all joined it. “When people saw that video, the idea just took off,” said Nussbaumer.
Yorkton’s dream came true on January 25, 2012, when the winners of the Aviva Community Fund were announced. The idea earned enough votes to win the $150,000 grant reserved for ideas from insurance brokers. As promised, the City of Yorkton matched the winnings, and construction of the park was completed in August 2012.
After the flood, the people of Yorkton experienced firsthand the value of insurance. The hard work and dedication of Farrell Agencies Ltd. helped them get back on their feet, and proved they could make a difference. But according to Nussbaumer, the experience wasn’t just about building a skateboard park. “It was about bringing our community together and giving back to it, after we lost so much.”
Copyright 2012 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the November 2012 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.