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A toast: ‘To the saving of a home’

Splintered roof rafters. Shattered shards of a wedding-day keepsake. When a storm damages the home and possessions you love, how do you pick up all the pieces…the big ones, the little ones, the ones that can be replaced, the ones that can’t?

Jeff and Carol Bell will tell you. There are tears, panic, anger, denial, resignation, and plenty of hard work. You lean on your inner fortitude, the support of your family and friends, and the strength of your insurance company.

Rude awakening

When Jeff pulled into the driveway of his home at 11 a.m. on March 6, 2013, he was ready for some rest. He’d just finished a stint on the night shift. He ran indoors, jogging through the sheets of wind-driven rain that had been pelting Pasadena, Maryland, for three days straight.

After eating a quick lunch at the dining room table, Jeff headed for the first floor master bedroom. He had barely dozed off when he heard a deafening crash. He could feel his king-sized, solid oak, four-poster bed come straight up off the floor.

Jeff tore open the bedroom door in time to see a white cloud headed straight for him. He was poised to run when the haze cleared just enough that he could make out a tangle of branches, leaves, and splintered wood on the dining room floor. A three-foot-high heap of ceiling insulation, topped off by the dining room chandelier, covered the table where he’d been eating just ten minutes before.

‘We didn’t consider it a threat’

Stumbling toward the devastation, Jeff felt a rush of cold air and looked up. Raindrops, gray daylight, and insulation were pouring down from a gaping hole in the roof. In that moment, Jeff’s eyes landed on the dining room china closet. Crazily enough, it had somehow broken part of the fall of a 150-foot oak tree that had smashed through the Bells’ home. Miraculously, all of the glassware remained stacked and intact on the china closet shelves, save one of the wine glasses that the couple had used for their wedding day toast.

Seventy-two hours of ground-soaking rain and fierce wind had dislodged a tree that stood 40 yards from the house on the Bells’ wooded lot. “When we first bought the house, we removed some trees that were really close by, hanging over the roof,” says Jeff. “But the one that fell over was farther out and looked healthy…we just didn’t consider it a threat.”

Claim adjuster responds in 10 minutes

As the dust was clearing, Jeff was dialing Mutual Benefit Group. Within ten minutes of reporting his claim, he was back on the phone, talking this time with one of MBG’s Maryland adjusters.

“From the moment the adjuster called, he made himself available to us 24/7,” recalls Jeff.

In less than an hour, the adjuster had a tree service at work removing the oak, and a crew from Capezio Contractors of Millersville, Maryland, was on site stabilizing the roof. The contractors worked into the wee hours of the next morning rigging tarpaulins to make sure everything was completely sealed up. “I finally went out at 3 a.m. and told them to go home,” laughs Jeff. “They had worked so hard…nothing was getting through the job they’d done!”

Devastation totaled $75,000

The adjuster was at the Bell household early the next morning to assess the damage. The tree trunk had demolished roof rafters and sheathing, cutting through the right gable end of the house, and the siding that covered it. Tree limbs had punctured the dining room, living room, and family room ceilings, ripped out a chandelier, damaged furniture. Insulation had fallen into three rooms. Two area rugs and the fabric-covered dining room chairs were wet and dirty. The devastation totaled more than $75,000.

The adjuster explained to the Bells that their Mutual Benefit policy would pay to put them up in a hotel while repairs were made, but Jeff, Carol, and their three children wanted to stay in their home if at all possible. So as soon as the adjuster left, he called in a professional cleaning company, Key Kleaning Service, and brought back Capezio Contractors to make the home livable. Both companies are professional insurance restoration firms in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area that the adjuster has worked with for many years.

“We were amazed how quickly the repairs were done”

“The contractors said they were sure they could make things livable during the reconstruction process, and they did,” says Jeff. “First they cut away the damaged part of the roof, as well as the cracked living room ceiling, and sealed both with plywood. Then they put up plastic dividers with zippered doors between the kitchen and the damaged rooms so that we could easily go back and forth while the work was going on. We were able to stay at home…we never lost any of our utility service. We could cook our meals and wash our clothes in our own home where we were most comfortable, without missing a beat.”

The contractors estimated that it would take four months to complete repairs. They finished the job in just two-and-a-half.

“We were amazed at how quickly everything was done, and how perfect and precise the repairs were,” says Jeff. “Mutual Benefit was great from start to finish. I can’t believe how well we were taken care of.”

Jeff and Carol bought their Mutual Benefit homeowners policy in 1996 from independent insurance agent Joe Gray. He and his brother Paul are co-owners of Gray Insurance Group in Bel Air, Maryland. Joe had lived in the same neighborhood as Jeff at one time, and the Bells knew they could trust the Gray Insurance Group to help them find the right homeowners coverage when they purchased their house in Pasadena.

A toast: ‘To the saving of a home’

Like many people, the Bells never imagined they would have to file a claim. But in just a few seconds on a stormy March morning, they were suddenly faced with a $75,000 repair bill that they could never have handled were it not for the insurance policy they’d purchased 17 years before. Thanks to the advice of their independent insurance agent, a compassionate, knowledgeable claims adjuster, and the strength of their mutual insurance company, in less than three months they had a new roof and outside wall, with shingles and siding that matched perfectly; new walls and ceilings inside; rugs and upholstered chairs that came back from the cleaners like new; and new furniture for the family room.

Just before he closed the Bells’ claim, the claim adjuster saw to it that there were once again two matching wine goblets in that sturdy little china cabinet in the refurbished dining room. It was time for Jeff and Carol to toast another unforgettable moment in their lives…the saving of a home.

Bells-toast (1)

One of the champagne flutes used for their wedding day toast was among the $75,000 worth of property damaged at Jeff and Carol Bell’s home during a spring storm. When all repairs to the home were completed, MBG made sure the couple had two matching goblets to toast another unforgettable moment in their lives…the saving of their home.


Seventy-two hours of ground-soaking rain and fierce wind brought a 150-foot oak tree crashing through the roof of the Bells’ Maryland home.


In less than an hour after the Bells called Mutual Benefit to report their claim, an adjuster had a construction crew on site stabilizing the roof.


This china cabinet in the Bells’ dining room helped break the tree’s fall. Miraculously, the only casualty among all the glass inside was that one champagne flute from the Bells’ wedding. Protection comes in many different forms, whether it’s a sturdy little china cabinet, or having the foresight to work with an independent insurance agent to make sure your home is properly covered.