SOUTH SIOUX CITY -- Don't be fooled by the name.
Royal Neighbors of America is not referring to some monarchy next door to the United States.
Rather, Royal Neighbors of America, a not-for-profit fraternal benefit society established in 1895, is all-American.
Formed by women to offer affordable life insurance to U.S. women -- who were largely excluded from the life insurance market at the turn of the century -- today Royal Neighbors sells traditional life insurance products and annuities to both men and women.
Its 250,000 policyholders benefit from a number of other membership privileges, including scholarship opportunities and fraternal aid in the wake of illness or disaster. In addition to life insurance, the organization sells Medicare supplemental insurance.
Ruth Poulsen of South Sioux City found out about the society when her uncle passed away unexpectedly, leaving a wife and two daughters.
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"My aunt had no life insurance and it was not easy for her," she recalled. "My mother took out a life insurance policy through the Royal Neighbors to make sure the same wouldn't happen to her."
However, Royal Neighbors is not an ordinary insurance firm. Its members receive member benefits such as scholarships, disaster aid, health discounts, and the opportunity to volunteer and give back to their communities.
Poulsen, 85, took out a policy in September 1988, after her husband, John, passed away in February 1988.
"I knew I had to look out for myself," she said. "My children were grown and I wasn't going to be dependent on them."
Today, Poulsen serves as Oracle or president of the Siouxland group. Evelyn Meiser of Sioux City is the secretary/treasurer.
"Twenty years ago, there were lots of members and we did a lot for the community, such as a huge Christmas party every year at which we would gather donations for those less fortunate," Poulsen said. "Our local group still continues to donate money to such organizations as the Salvation Army and the Cancer Center, but there are fewer and fewer of us."
Royal Neighbors has more than 215,000 members across the nation volunteering in their communities through its chapter system. In the last 40 years alone our members have given $350 million in time and talent to their communities.
"Just recently we heard of a family who needed some help, so we made sure they had groceries," Poulsen said. "We received a lovely thank-you note form them. That's what I think this organization is all about."