Couri Insurance supports veterans
Trip to San Diego involved hands-on volunteer work

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

Nov. 11, 2015

  Couri Insurance executives and agents traveled to San Diego in October and while there assembled plush animals and wheelchairs to benefit veterans and their families. Pictured from left to right are: back row, Mark Dhuey and Mark LeMahieu; middle row, Mitchell Pomper, Ron Philleo, Steve Albinger, Jeff Knuese, Lorraine LeMahieu, Jerry Couri, Ted Smith, and Kelly Papenthien; and front row, Angela Philleo, Becky Pomper, Judie Couri, Mary Dhuey, Wendy Smith, Roxanne Knuese and Caryn Papenthien.
Submitted photo

WAUKESHA - Both Jerry and Judie Couri became teary-eyed Monday as they recounted a recent trip they took to San Diego that involved building wheelchairs for veterans and assembling special teddy bears for children of deployed military personnel.

Accompanying the Couris on the trip were other Couri executives and six of the business’s top-performing agents and their spouses.

Judie Couri, president of Couri Insurance Associates, and Jerry Couri, president of Couri Insurance Agency, have already established a reputation of supporting the Waukesha community. But veterans’ issues are also near and dear to their hearts.

Jerry Couri is a Vietnam veteran and said he wanted to show his appreciation for others who have served the United States or are currently serving.

Steve Albinger, vice president of operations, left, and Jerry Couri, president of Couri Insurance Agency, assemble a wheelchair for a veteran while visiting San Diego in October.
Submitted photo

“These people have given up so much,” he said. “It’s a little something we could do to say thank you.”

While in San Diego from Oct. 23 to Oct. 30, the Couris and their associates built three wheelchairs and 16 plush animals, including a camouflage teddy bear and a monkey. The plush animals are sent to the child with a note saying the toy is from their parent.

The Couris worked with The Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc., a non-partisan, non-political, non-sectarian organization, to get the wheelchairs and bears to those who need them.

Couri Insurance donated $5,500 for the wheelchairs and leased them to the receiving veterans for a dollar for indefinite use because otherwise the veterans would have had to pay taxes on the items.

Caryn Papenthien, vice president of Couri Insurance Associates, left, and her mother, Judie Couri, president of Couri Insurance Associates, stand with one of the wheelchairs they helped to make for a veteran while in San Diego recently.
Submitted photo

‘I am in tears thinking about it’

Each wheelchair carried a sign on back with a special message from the Couri Insurance volunteers.

“I am in tears thinking about it,” Judie Couri said, adding they started to plan the trip a while ago “because we wanted to do more for the military than we felt we were doing.”

Days after returning to Waukesha, Judie Couri said she is still getting words of thanks from the other executives and the six agents and spouses who accompanied them. The Couris’ daughter, Caryn Papenthien, vice president of Couri Insurance Associates, and her husband, Kelly, went on the trip, along with Steve Albinger, vice president of operations. The six agents chosen for the incentive trip were Ron Philleo, Ted Smith, Mitchell Pomper, Mark LeMahieu, Jeff Knuese and Mark Dhuey.

  Caryn Papenthien, vice president of Couri Insurance Associates, creates a teddy bear care package for a child of a United State military member during a recent trip to San Diego.
Submitted photo

Judie Couri said Knuese put off surgery so he could go on the trip.

“This all meant so much to them to be able to help out and to know that someone is going to be happy,” she said.

In addition to working hands-on, Judie Couri said the group also spent time getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the USS Midway and went on a charter yacht with a retired military officer who provided a tour of the harbor and its military ships.

  A sign placed on the back of one of the wheelchairs representatives from Couri Insurance Agency made thanks the receiving veteran for their service.
Submitted photo

Judie Couri was so impressed with the work The Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc. does that she is trying to get a branch of the organization started locally. She said she met with state Sen. Leah Vukmir to discuss the possibility.

“We would like to get this started so other people could have the satisfaction that we had doing this,” she said.