About a year ago, Destin-based Acentria Insurance (established in 2010) partnered with Dwight Van Lierop.
According to Jessica Davis, director of Marketing for Acentria’s Corporate Office, Dwight wanted to spend more time helping his clients, and offer his employees better networking, benefits and advancement opportunities.
“He grew the family,” she said, “but it’s basically a name change with all the same familiar faces.”
Jessica explained how it was a blessing that the partnership was established before Hurricane Michael struck the area, because the local office would have been closed. The out-of-town offices of Acentria were proactive in planning before the storm. Clients were contacted prior to Hurricane Michael with helpful preparation information. Telephones were rerouted in affected areas to other offices, so local clients could call the local phone number and talk to a person in another office.
For more than three weeks after Hurricane Michael devastated the area, other Acentria offices worked seven days a week answering calls and taking claims. In an effort to help clients better and allow them to focus on their family and other needs, Acentria’s in-house claim team acted as a liaison between the carriers and clients.
Acentria cares about their team members, too. Judy Barfield from the Marianna office explained how the company sent the local team home on Monday to prepare for the storm.
“On Friday, the director checked on me and every team member, in every affected office,” she continued. “For those who were unable to be contacted, our team examined satellite imagery of their home to try and check on them,” Jessica explained. “Even the underwriters and reps called me to make sure I was okay,” Judy shared. Jessica clarified, “For me, being in an unaffected area and my family being in an affected area was difficult.” “I just wanted to hug them,” she continued.
While the local team did not return to work for about a week, three days after the storm Kendall McEacheren, CEO, and Jessica setup a fifth wheel recreational vehicle in the parking lot to have an open office in Marianna. From the portable office, which was in place for about four months, the team fed families, and brought in fuel and ice, which was hard to find during the early days after the storm. Dwight and Judy were there every day despite their own storm damage and issues at home.
“One day we let a veteran sit inside a vehicle with air conditioning, so he could cool off,” Jessica shared. “We were able to deploy a team, and bring in WiFi hotspots and laptop computers to our nine offices affected across the panhandle of Florida,” she continued. “Carriers were coming in bringing supplies and fuel,” Jessica stated. During this time Johnson & Johnson came to Marianna and helped, and Senator (former Governor) Rick Scott visited the portable office.
Judy and Jessica shared all the good and positive that came from Hurricane Michael.
“Evan Foster, owner of the Gazebo, loves this community,” Jessica continued. “He wouldn’t stop picking up debris and cleaning up, while his own business was nonfunctional.” “He took care of the community before himself,” she explained.
Now, as we are embarking on a new hurricane season, Jessica stressed that it is important to obtain flood insurance.
“I have seen places flooded in Pensacola despite the fact that they were not located in a flood zone.” “On average flood insurance is about $400 a year, but when needed, it could be the difference between $1,500 and replacing your home, depending on your situation.” According to Jessica, you should not wait until a storm is on the way to make the decision to purchase flood insurance. You could be under a 30-day waiting period, and once the storm is named carriers place binders on policies.
Jessica is from Texas and refers to herself as an “Army brat”. She grew up at Fort Rucker, where her father was an instructor pilot. After graduating from Troy State with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and Communications in 2003, she went to work in Huntsville for Clear Channel Radio as traffic manager and on-air personality. She moved to Destin two years later, first working for San Destin Golf and Beach Resort, and later working for two nonprofit organizations in fundraising and marketing: the American Heart Association and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Her nonprofit background became useful when she began working for Acentria. She started #AcentriaCares, which empowers teams to give back to their communities. Each office chooses a charity of choice and teams are allowed a paid day off to volunteer for a charity. Across the footprint of Acentria’s 50 offices in the southeast, $750,000 has been raised to date.
Judy Barfield grew up in Cottondale and has lived in Marianna the majority of her life. She worked as division training manager for Advance America, a payday loan company and later was manager of Mariner Finance in Marianna. She enjoys spending time with her two daughters and attends the Marianna campus of Rivertown Community Church. The campus pastor’s wife, Lisa Yoder, introduced her to Dwight in 2016.
“Although the company is in the process of expanding to a fourth state, our CEO says that ‘we still feel small’,” Jessica explained. “We have received national recognition as Employer of Choice, and our tag line is ‘your dedicated resource for all insurance’,” she added. Visit the office at 2884 Caledonia Street, between the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or call 850-526-2544 for home, auto, flood, Medicare supplements, individual healthcare and business insurance, including group health and workers’ compensation. Take time to visit the website at www.Acentria.com and look for the company on Facebook. What a wonderful business for the community! Visit the City of Marianna’s website at http://www.mariannafl.city/335/New-Businesses-and-Other-Community-News to learn more about businesses in Marianna.
Kay Dennis, MBA, MPA, A.I.C.P., is the director of Municipal Development for the City of Marianna.