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WoodmenLife Celebrates 2023 Award Winners at WeConnect

Mar 7, 20243/7/2024

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At WoodmenLife, we recognize the profound impact our associates have on our workplace culture, engagement and overall organizational achievements. This is important because it directly affects the service we provide to our members.

WeConnect, our all-associate meeting, provides us with an opportunity to honor and celebrate the outstanding contributions of our associates who have transformed our organization through their innovative strategies. Each award recipient has shown excellence in a specific category, demonstrating their dedication to cultivating a positive culture at WoodmenLife.

2023 WeConnect: Values Champion Award

We are honored to celebrate our 2023 Annual Values Champion Award winner, Joan Kash, Bilingual Customer Service Specialist II.

Joan exemplified the principal of “every member counts” through her exceptional assistance in resolving an issue with a third-party organization after the passing of the member’s husband. When the member contacted WoodmenLife’s Customer Service team, Joan assured her that she would receive refunds for premiums still being received for her late husband’s certificate, even after the death benefit had been paid.

After conducting further research, Joan uncovered that the member was not responsible for the payments, as they were being made by another company for the deceased’s benefit. Dissatisfied with her experience with the other company, the member specifically sought Joan’s assistance by contacting WoodmenLife’s Customer Service once again. Joan contacted the other company to arrange a conference call with them and the member in order to resolve the issue.

Despite the issue falling outside our direct responsibility, Joan undertook the initiative to deliver service to the member, demonstrating an exceptional commitment to exceeding customer satisfaction.

2023 WeConnect: Fourth Quarter Values Champion Award

At WoodmenLife, the Values Champion Award is presented quarterly to recognize exceptional associates who consistently make a positive impact on both internal associates and members. We are honored to recognize Stacy Gutierrez, Sr. Sales Solutions & Training, as the Fourth Quarter Values Champion Award winner.

Stacy demonstrated that “every member counts” through her outstanding service to both new and existing members. Her unwavering eagerness to volunteer and support those in need truly sets her apart. Last fall, she played a pivotal role in providing Medicare Supplement training for the Sales Team in the Kentucky East Region, earning praise from the Regional Director for her impactful presentation and her consistent efforts to positively influence WoodmenLife’s Sales Force and associates.

Stacy’s dedication to bringing WoodmenLife’s mission to life and her proactive approach to upholding the organization’s core values truly exemplify the spirit of the Values Champion Award.

2023 WeConnect: Executive Excellence Award

The Executive Excellence Award acknowledges associates who have demonstrated exceptional performance, as recognized by both their supervisors and peers. It is with great pride that we celebrate winners of the 2023 Executive Excellence Award: Lesha Starks, Jason Haas and Rachel Leslie, who have consistently excelled in their roles, demonstrating integrity and a strong commitment to the mission and values of WoodmenLife.

Lesha Starks, Concierge Specialist

Since 2021, Lesha has consistently achieved a perfect Quality score. She regularly surpasses her Work Per Hour goal and maintains exceptional Call Quality scores. New associates train with Lesha because she provides the perfect example of how WoodmenLife wants our members to be treated. She never complains and is always the first to volunteer to stay late, change her schedule or take on an extra task, all while maintaining a positive attitude and asking, “What else can I do?”

Lesha ensures that members feel valued and receive exceptional service whenever she answers the phone, creating a welcoming atmosphere for all.

Jason Haas, Sr. Investment Analyst

When the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates in March 2022, it created opportunities for higher-yield investments. In August 2022, an initiative was launched to capitalize on the increased interest rates by investing more funds.

To achieve this, the Securities Trading Team had to invest incoming premium income at the prevailing rates, sell lower-yielding securities from the portfolio and reinvest the proceeds. Jason played an important role in executing these trades. He navigated sales negotiations, built trusted relationships, identified potential securities for purchase and sale, and managed the trade book for 16 months.

Despite the demanding nature of the task, Jason remained committed to a strategy that led to the turnover of nearly 25% of the corporate bond portfolio, involving close to 400 trades over the course of 16 months.

Rachel Leslie, Sr. Leads Sales Operations

During her tenure as a Lead Expense Analyst, Rachel consistently exceeded expectations, demonstrating her capacity to learn and make significant contributions to projects and initiatives within Sales Operations.

One of Rachel’s key responsibilities was to spearhead the implementation of the Sales Division’s “Ask Why” approach. This initiative aimed to challenge existing processes and explore alternative options. Rachel’s leadership was instrumental in streamlining operations by eliminating unnecessary processes and enhancing the overall effectiveness and efficiency of Sales Operations.

Rachel has also played an integral role in training new associates for Sales Operations, earning the respect of the entire team through her dedication and leadership.

2023 WeConnect: Intrapreneur Award

We are proud to celebrate three teams for the 4th Quarter 2023 Intrapreneur Award for their achievements in generating new ideas, identifying problems and opportunities, and presenting innovative solutions.

First Team of 4th Quarter 2023 Intrapreneur Award

Blake Jones Jeremy Bertelsen Scott Glass
Christina Legner Karrie O’Brien Shayla Simmons
Dani Dross Kerry Heinrich Shelley Dahlgren
Dara Storm Liz Coffey Stacy Gutierrez
Doreen Cruz Michael Bartsch Terrena Goodhart
Gabrielle McDaneld Michele Youngquist Travis Whittington
Gary Arnett Miranda Wade Vicky Knight-Poole
Jean Everhart Nate Eicher Terrena Goodhart


This team collaborated to develop a new solution for the claims notification process, creating a self-service method for beneficiaries to initiate claims. These changes eliminated several previously required manual steps to initiate a claim, reducing calls to the Customer Service Center and increasing its capacity to handle additional calls.

Second Team of 4th Quarter 2023 Intrapreneur Award

Brian Gerdes Dave Farnsworth Frank Burcaw
Chris McClenny David Schmitt Missy Reichardt


This team dedicated effort to enhance and automate specific solutions, demonstrating how teamwork and creativity can lead to substantial improvements. They brainstormed ways to enhance processes and integrate more automation to enhance the efficiency of our testing. Through automation, we can redirect our resources to focus on other high-priority areas within the organization.

Third Team of 4th Quarter 2023 Intrapreneur Award

The third team recipients of the 4th Quarter 2023 Intrapreneur Award are Jeremy Grimm and Gary Rogers. They are recognized for their innovative solution to back up and restore the WoodmenLife OpenShift system. Their solution increased efficiencies and reliability of the system. Through their innovative approach, Jeremy and Gary explored new ideas, enhancing the existing process and devising a creative solution for a complex problem.

To learn more about our awards recognized this year, or to hear more about our award-winning associates for 2023, visit



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