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Learning and growing can happen at any age, don’t you think?
Karen Fergusson, a Florida Blue employee of 28 years, lives by this mantra. Our third Blue Community Champion of the Year is a disarming, genuine kind of person who knows how to put complicated matters in very plain terms. It’s those characteristics that may have contributed to her connection with a special little girl we’ll call Sarah.
Karen met Sarah through her involvement with the YMCA’s annual fundraising campaign fifteen years ago. After touring the New Life Educational Center in Jacksonville, a YMCA donation recipient, Karen knew she wanted to be involved.
Karen and Sarah met on Sarah’s ninth birthday, and Sarah was ecstatic to have her very own mentor. After spending some time together, Karen realized Sarah couldn’t read, and had already been held back two years. Karen didn’t know if she was up to the challenge Sarah presented but Karen’s mother, an English teacher, insisted that
she not give up – no matter how unprepared for the task Karen felt.
With her mother’s help and the assistance of Sarah’s mom, Karen was able to get Sarah tested for learning disabilities and was delighted when a special reading instructor was assigned to the student. This victory may have been enough for some. But not for Karen.
Karen admits that she has become so invested in Sarah and her three siblings that she now regularly has the children over to her house. Karen took in their dog, Cocoa, when she became too expensive for Sarah’s family to keep. She and her husband washed twelve loads of laundry on Christmas day so that Sarah’s family would have clean clothes to visit their grandma’s house. And for that same season, Karen and Sarah went Christmas shopping for all 20 members of Sarah’s family at the Dollar Store – and every family member got their own gift bag.
Karen’s coworkers have also become involved in helping Sarah and her family. They often drop off clothes for the kids and ask for their latest pictures. Karen jokingly adds that Sarah is now an 8 ½ shoe size – and lots of her women coworkers wear the same size. “I eye them and ask when they’ll be ready to give them to me for Sarah. Like we need an excuse to buy a new pair of shoes!” Karen and her husband are in it for the long haul. “I’ll be with the family for as long as I can. It will be up to them.”
Karen feels her time with Sarah and her family has helped make her a better manager. “Coaching, rewarding and inspiring are so important.” Few could deny that Karen Fergusson has done just that. Florida Blue is fortunate to have her as an employee and is privelaged to name her a Blue Community Champion of the Year.
Have you ever risen to a challenge – and been changed for the better? Tell us about it in our comments below.