Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
July 17, 2024
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Major Milestone

Bay of Quinte Mutual Insurance celebrates 150 Years with a garden party at The Cape — and a long list of donations to charities large and small
<p>Jeffery Howell, President, Bay of Quinte Mutual Insurance Co. (Photo supplied)</p>
Jeffery Howell, President, Bay of Quinte Mutual Insurance Co. (Photo supplied)

In the summer of 1874, facing the reluctance of the big insurance companies to protect their farms from fire, 100 Prince Edward County farmers formed a company to do it themselves. 

Each neighbour invested to assist any of the others who experienced loss by fire.

This neighbourliness characterizes the meaning of “mutual” in Mutual Insurance. We’re all in this together. The policy holders own the company.

In its origins Bay of Quinte Mutual is insistently local. As it has expanded its coverage over the past century and a half, it has also grown its geographical reach, covering rural Eastern Ontario roughly between Oshawa and Ottawa, and reaching well into the North. But the County remains at its centre.

To celebrate, Bay of Quinte Mutual Insurance is hosting a garden party at The Cape on Picton’s historic main street. It will mark its sesquicentennial with a major donation of $150,000 to a chosen charity. 

Another fifteen donations of $10,000 go to local organizations in all of the regions Bay of Quinte Mutual serves, prompted by the suggestions of their policy holders.

In conversation with President Jeffery Howell last week, I came to see how the local element persists to this day in the practices of the modern company.  Personal contact is still its signature style.  “Insurance is about people and relationships,” he said, explaining Bay of Quinte’s approach is “high touch.”

Whether it is in advising about loss prevention, or walking someone through the claims process, there is always a real human being involved. And, something Mr. Howell is proud of, it is quite likely that the same person will be there to assist you over the years. 

The stability and continuity of its workforce is a feature of the company’s commitment to the idea of the local and the mutual.

Mr. Howell’s own career speaks to this. After graduating from Brock University, he joined the company in 1991, and became president in 1998, taking over from Aleck Stickle, who was leading the company at the time of its centenary. In fact, since 1874, there have been only 13 presidents (formerly called secretaries).

Centenary Commemorative Plate, Bay of Quinte Mutual Insurance Co., 1974 (Photo: Chris Fanning)

Even Bay of Quinte’s office building, on the Loyalist Parkway, and built in 1978, was designed to appear as a house, integrated with its community. 

“Neighbours helping neighbours really has been ingrained in Bay of Quinte forever.”

Jeffery Howell, President, Bay of Quinte Mutual Insurance

Over the years, the commitment to community has expressed itself in a regular, quiet giving, whether on a large scale — $1.5 million for the hospital build — or through regular contributions to Hospice Prince Edward, or unique donations, such as one for repairing the vandalism at Glenwood cemetery. 

“This is our home turf,” said Mr. Howell quietly.

As for this year’s generous round of grants, “we asked our policy holders to tell us when they made their submissions, what about this cause does good for your local community? To our surprise we got quite a few suggestions, which was really great. So we’ve had no issues picking the big charity and then eight of the fifteen smaller ones are also picked already,” said Mr. Howell.

“In the beginning, it was super practical,” he notes. “Your barn goes down and everybody was getting together to help rebuild it. 

“There are different ways that it’s happened over the years, but we’ve always been about neighbours helping neighbours. And, of course, now, from our perspective, what it really is, is trying to support the communities where we do business.”

The announcement of the full list of grant recipients will take place at the 14 June celebration, which runs from 1-4pm. Speeches, including one from Mayor Steve Ferguson, start at 2pm. All are welcome.

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 23 edition of The Picton Gazette
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