Gahanna insurance agent's12 Months of Giving deepens her company's engagement with the community it serves.

In 2014, Gahanna-based State Farm insurance agent Andrea Taylor and her team decided to give back during the holidays. The plan was to donate their time and resources for, as the Christmas song goes, 12 days.

The plan was well intentioned. It was also impossible.

Daily office demands proved too overwhelming for the philanthropic project to come to completion, says Taylor. Yet her motivation persisted.

“I’m a dreamer,” she says, “and the main reason I became an agent was to make a difference in the lives of others and in my community. So I thought, ‘Why not 12 months instead of 12 days?’ ” Nearly five years later, Taylor and her three employees are still at it, selecting a different local organization each month to give donations or provide volunteer support.

They’ve visited families at the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, bringing toys and teddy bears; made gift bags for children with terminal illnesses; led free community yoga classes; sponsored local football teams; delivered doughnuts and coffee to police stations during Law Enforcement Appreciation Day; and helped build a park playground, among other projects.

Taylor reports that her employees enjoy and draw satisfaction from their service. “Knowing that you work for a business that wants to change lives and change communities gives them a greater sense of purpose,” she says.

Rather than petering out, the initiative has grown. Taylor recently hired a part-time director of philanthropy to manage that growth. “There’s a lot of back-end work that nobody sees: logistics, going out and buying items. … This could be a full-time job in and of itself.”

The initiative is as good for the business as it is for the community, says Taylor. The visibility of her agency’s commitment builds trust, an important foundation for any insurance provider. The organizations she and her employees serve receive both physical donations and intangible gifts. Consider, for example, Taylor’s regular volunteerism for Dress for Success Columbus.

“Whether she’s sorting suiting donations or facilitating a workshop in our career center, [Taylor’s] positivity elevates the experience,” says Vicki Bowen Hewes, CEO of Dress for Success Columbus. “Her dedication of time, treasure and talent have elevated our mission. With volunteers like Andrea widening our reach, more women are engaged in a meaningful way and [are] ultimately successful.”

The personal benefits of giving back are clear to Taylor, too.

“I have one life, and I don’t intend on wasting it,” she says. “No one’s going to care about the car I drove and where I lived. I want to be remembered for being an integral part of my community.”