Westerville independent insurance agent gives back to local military families
COLUMBUS, OH – For Chris Callen, president of Chris D. Callen Insurance Agent in Westerville, giving back to military families is a true calling.
A Vietnam War veteran who received the U.S. Army’s highest honor – The Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Bronze Star – Callen has personally walked in the shoes of those he helps with his nonprofit, The Callen Foundation. Because of his work with the Foundation, Callen is the recipient of the OIA Community Service Award, which recognizes an Ohio independent insurance agent making a positive impact in his or her community.
“As a former U.S. Army Combat Infantryman in Vietnam, I have seen the sacrifices our military families are required to make in order to serve our country and protect all of us, especially when the main breadwinner is called to duty overseas,” Callen says. “Like most Americans, we tend to forget the special price others pay for us on our behalf, especially those in the Ohio National Guard who are forced to leave good paying jobs to do tours overseas for extremely low pay. As our family has been blessed with a successful insurance business, we felt that it was time to give back.”
Established in 2011, The Callen Foundation provides short-term financial support to Ohio military families with urgent needs, such as food and basic living necessities, late bill payments, baby care items and emergency household repairs. In fact, 100 percent of donations to the foundation go directly to Ohio military families. “In 2010, when preparing Christmas gift lists for our family, my wife Lynn and I decided that no one in our family needed gifts and we should focus our efforts on helping Ohio military families,” Callen says. “It was then that we founded a 501c3 non-profit corporation to help us accomplish our goal.”
The Callen Foundation provides assistance to an average of four or five military families each month. In some cases, the servicemen and women have suffered serious, even career-ending, injuries. Other times, the main bread winner is serving in a combat zone and the spouse has no family or friends to rely on for support. For example, one military family relocated to the Columbus area from the south and could not afford winter boots for their seven children. Upon receiving this request, Callen and staff members from his insurance agency immediately went shopping for seven pairs of boots.
“With our foundation, we have found a niche that wasn’t being served,” Callen says. “Unlike most nonprofits supporting the military, The Callen Foundation doesn’t require recipients to be veterans or have experience serving overseas. For many servicemen and women who serve part-time in the National Guard or Reserve, it can be difficult to find and keep employment with trainings held throughout the year and the possibility of being called into active duty at any time.”
Callen works closely with the Ohio National Guard’s Family Readiness and Warrior Support Program to connect with local servicemen and women who need emergency assistance after all other options have been exhausted. Many times, The Callen Foundation is the last line of defense for these families.
“The Callen Foundation has helped many service members and their families with emergency needs,” says Captain Doug Franz of the Ohio National Guard. “In most cases, the majority of these requests have been resolved within 24 hours or less. The Callen Foundation continues to be a great partner that can be called on to assist service members who may not qualify for any assistance through other local agencies.”
Ohio Insurance Agents Association
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