Donna Bordelon isn’t new to the industry, having worked previously in claims and underwriting. But she’s happier working as an agent—building relationships with people like Sandi and Glenn, clients she inherited when she first started out with Louisiana Farm Bureau Insurance Co. in Avoyelles Parish, La. And while she’s now a five-year veteran of multiline sales, Sandi and Glenn were two of her earliest clients—and one of her toughest sales.
A house on the way
Sandi and Glenn had purchased a plot of land on which they were going to build their dream home. Glenn was the primary breadwinner for the family of five, and when Donna first visited them and reviewed their situation, she immediately saw a glaring hole in their coverage. Sandi saw it too. But Glenn, Donna recalls, disagreed. “Glenn didn’t see the reason to increase the life insurance he had through two small individual policies,” she says. “Sandi knew they needed additional coverage, especially now that they were going to build a house.”
Rejection can be tough for any agent, much less one with only a few months of experience. But Donna stayed in touch with Sandi anyway. “I would talk to her and encourage her to keep talking to him,” she says. “She was always very nice, but his answer was always no.”
Donna felt like she was pestering them, but one day in August of 2002, “the need to call was too strong to ignore,” she says. So she made one last call, and again, entreated Sandi to ask her husband about increasing his life insurance coverage. The next morning, Sandi called with the good news. To the surprise and delight of both women, Glenn had finally said yes.
The unexpected happens
The policy had been in force a few months when Donna happened to glance at the morning paper left lying in the office. It was an ordinary morning in January of 2003, and like every morning, the paper was full of bad news—the main reason Donna didn’t usually read it. But that day she did, and as she read, she felt a feeling of panic overcoming her. A tragic car accident had taken the lives of five local men—and one of them was Glenn. “I remember saying to someone, ‘Please tell me this isn’t Sandi’s husband,’” she says. “When I found out it was, I went back to my office and cried.”
This was Donna’s first—and so far only—death claim. “It was horrible,” she says. “Worse, we learned that some of the other men who lost their lives did not have adequate coverage to protect their families.” It was even more tragic because two of the men were brothers, and the other two were their cousins.
At the funeral home, Sandi expressed her disbelief—that no matter how much she had pressed Glenn for the additional protection, she never thought anything like this would happen. He was only 35. It made Donna realize just how important her job was. “It was bittersweet, and a bit strange for me after my years in claims and underwriting,” she says. “I’m glad I had the money to give her, but I am sad about the reason I was giving her a check.”
Since then, Donna has moved back to her home parish, where she runs the Donna Bordelon Agency in Bastrop, La. and is a member of NAIFA-Northeast. But she stays in touch with Sandi, who was able to build the house and focus on raising their three children. “We get tired of getting turned down, but there are turning points when that one last call can change someone’s life,” Donna says. “This was one of those moments.”
This story was made possible with the help of LIFE. For more information on LIFE’s realLIFEstories program or to obtain a realLIFEstories application, visit www.LIFE-line.org or call 202-464-5000.