The family tradition began over 80 years ago with the birth of Fred and Ora Shawback’s first grandchild. Rather than going the conventional route of giving clothing or toys, the Illinois couple decided to welcome each new grandbaby into their family by purchasing the infant a life insurance certificate from Royal Neighbors of America. It was a process that Ora and Fred repeated six times, once for each grandchild born in the late 1930s.
From the start of their family, Fred and Ora recognized the value of life insurance. They purchased certificates for themselves in the early 1900s and for their children in the 1910s, making them some of the first members to obtain life insurance through Royal Neighbors, just a short time after its founding in 1895.
Two of the Shawback’s surviving grandchildren, Nancy Jean Swift Baer and Mary Ann Swift Beenenga (now in their 80s) still have their original life insurance certificates from Royal Neighbors. Following the family custom, Nancy’s parents, Gwen and Ralph Swift, purchased life insurance for their four children and all 15 grandchildren.
When one of Gwen and Ralph Swift’s grandchildren, Tracy Kotecki, and her husband had children of their own, there was no question they would follow the family tradition. Although they researched other life insurers and options, in the end, they chose the family favorite. “My husband and I trusted Royal Neighbors would be there for the long haul,” said Tracy. “Royal Neighbors has been part of our family for five generations, and one of these days, I hope to make it six.”
Insurance with a DifferenceSM
Fred and Ora’s Royal Neighbors’ tradition went beyond life insurance. They also appreciated the fraternal side of the organization that provides philanthropic programs and support to members looking to make a difference for their families and communities.
Tracy grew up hearing stories about her mom, Nancy, attending Royal Neighbors chapter meetings with Tracy’s grandma, Gwen. Her grandmother believed in giving back and often did charitable work through Royal Neighbors. Nancy carried on her mother’s legacy of giving as a charter member of the Junior Women’s Club and completing many service projects through her church.
“I’ve seen the impact Royal Neighbors has on communities – within the Tonica community I grew up in and the Quad Cities community I now call home,” said Tracy.
Tracy and her family members have personal experience of how Royal Neighbors gives back through their member benefits. Tracy’s son, Aaron, was awarded a scholarship from Royal Neighbors in 2010. He will graduate in June of 2022 as an Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon.
The family also takes advantage of the Difference Maker Fund (DMF), a program that provides grants to members to help support causes near to their hearts:
- Tracy used a DMF grant to help start a Girls on the Run Council in the Quad Cities. Girls on the Run is a national program that inspires girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running.
- Her cousin, Lucy, used her grant money to create Sew Fabulous, a multi-generational group of girls and women (including her aunts Irene and Nancy) that creates quilts and donates them to charities.
- Finally, Tracy’s sister, Shelley, has used DMF grants to turn a neglected space at a local school into an Enchanted Garden. The garden is used as an outdoor classroom and provides a rejuvenating space for teachers.
Simply being an active member wasn’t enough for Tracy – eight years ago, she became a Royal Neighbors employee.
“When I applied at Royal Neighbors, I was seeking employment with three characteristics: a solid foundation, a place where I could contribute to making a difference, and a trusting relationship with my direct report. I found all three! And, of course, I still have my Royal Neighbors life insurance as well.”
While Fred and Ora Shawback joined the Royal Neighbors family over a century ago – it is a relationship that continues to give back today.