Volunteer Spotlight: James Burnham

The Pacific Crest Trail spans from the US-Mexico border to British Columbia, winding its way through the rugged peaks and valleys of California, Oregon and Washington. James Burnham—a Habitat volunteer, avid hiker, and Auto Litigation Unit Manager at Travelers Insurance—has plans to walk all 2,659 miles of that famous trail. It’s these kind of life experiences, along with a passion for community service, that inspire him.
Before he began adventuring on foot, James had his eyes set on the sky. He attended Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, and afterwards interned with Alaska Airlines. However, his career ambitions to become a pilot took a different course after the 9/11 tragedy. Changing directions, he decided to go into the insurance business, working at Progressive first before moving onto Travelers, where he’s worked for eight years.
Travelers is a nationwide partner of Habitat for Humanity, offering grants to claim centers that allow them to give back locally. When James started volunteering as the Community Outreach Chair for the Lake Oswego Claims Center, he found Habitat for Humanity to be the right fit for his team. People spend a lot of time with their coworkers in a professional setting, so James thought it’d be fun get his team out to our construction site to build a home while connecting over something other than spreadsheets. It’s because of James’ hard work and dedication to community service, along with his support of Habitat’s mission, that he’s been awarded the grant three years in a row. Each year has grown in both volunteer participation and financial support. This year, Travelers came out for eight build days, bringing out approximately 20 volunteers each time. James says that Travelers’ employees are encouraged to volunteer, through paid volunteer hours and an employee match program where Travelers gives $500 for each employee that completes 24 hours of service.
“Seeing the families that will own the home when you are done is a great feeling that stays with you and keeps you coming back to Habitat. I think the increase every year in participation is a testament to the satisfaction that we are getting from the experience.”
The stability of neighborhoods—and the people and families that work, live and shop in them—is crucial to building healthy communities. James says it’s what businesses like Travelers depend on.  “We all benefit in our community when we have stable housing situations for families.”
James’ commitment to volunteerism spreads to his personal life as well. Throughout the years, he’s gathered friends and family to volunteer with organizations like SOLVE and the Oregon Food Bank.
Habitat thanks James and Travelers Insurance for their incredible support.

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