On a quiet Saturday in July of 2021, Neal Swartz finished mowing his meticulous lawn just like he always did. His wife, Nancy, was inside tending to the home that held years of family memories and an impressive collection of antiques. Neal put the mower back in the garage, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed out to the back patio to enjoy some well-deserved relaxation. Ten minutes later, he heard his wife yelling that she saw smoke. Neal rushed to the garage and discovered the mower smoldering. His plan was to minimize the damage by pushing the mower into the driveway, but a loud explosion filled the garage with black smoke.
With singed hair and eyebrows, Neal was able to crawl to safety using the light of the open garage door as a guide. Within the hour, the house the Swartz family had called home for the past four decades was gone—along with everything inside of it.
The fire department was already there when we arrived, and the house was fully engulfed. It was a total loss. Within minutes, they lost everything.
Lisa and Tony Kos, Neal and Nancy’s daughter and son-in-law, recently shared their experience with Central:
Lisa: We got a phone call that something was wrong, but I assumed it was a small garbage fire. As we were driving up to the house, you could see a black plume of smoke from down the road. The fire department was already there when we arrived, and the house was fully engulfed. Within minutes, they lost everything. It was a total loss. Sometimes I drive past [the site] and just sit in the driveway. It’s still emotional.
We got in touch with our agent, and they helped us connect with Mike Zenk, a Property Large Loss Specialist at Central. Mike was so empathic, compassionate and patient. He treated my parents with the same level of dignity and care he would have shown his own parents. It didn’t take long to realize that he was more than an agent for Central, he was an advocate for our family. We took so much comfort in knowing that Mike was going to be in our corner as a true partner.
You were here for us at the worst time of our lives, and we can’t thank you enough.
Tony: Having never gone through anything like this there was a steep learning curve for the entire family. Mike didn’t just tell us what would happen, he really educated us on each step of the process, putting things in terms that we could understand. My wife was the point person, but her parents were the decision-makers. Mike recognized that seniors can have different expectations about the pace of the process. He broke down every step, explaining the ‘why’ in a way that satisfied them in terms of timing.
Lisa: The first thing we had to arrange was a place for our parents to stay. We were more than willing to take them in, but they wanted their own space. We knew someone with a condo available, and within four days Mike had arranged for them to move into that space. I’ve heard horror stories of claims with other insurers remaining open for years, but that was far from our experience with Central. When we told Mike we needed something, he listened and helped make it happen.”
Until you experience it, you don’t realize how a tragedy like this impacts your entire family. The fire took our parents’ home, but the loss was felt by each of us. Their house was the place we spent years building great memories, and in a single day all we were left with were those memories. There were days I wasn’t sure how we could move forward, but Mike took a devastating life ordeal and gave us a sense of security that it would all be okay. That level of care and compassion helped me realize that we could move on with all the memories—just in a different way.
We’re not people who write letters for customer service, but we were so compelled by the difference Mike and Central made for my parents and family that we sat down and wrote a letter. I had to let someone know. You sometimes hear insurance companies get a bad rap, but I only have good things to say about Central. As a policyholder, you send in a check each month, but most people don’t really dig into their policy or know what they’re paying for. Now we understand. If something tragic happens, it means having people who are there for you and on your side when you need it most. I wouldn’t say anything about the fire was positive, but our relationship with Central most definitely is. Nobody ever wants to go through a situation like this, but having Mike and Central guide us through the process made all the difference. You were here for us at the worst time of our lives, and we can’t thank you enough.