A lighthouse project that was never planned that way. “In the 1990s there weren’t many opportunities in Duisburg for me to try and emulate my idol Bruce Lee,” says Jürgen Schaab. “So my best friend Halit and I started up our own martial arts group. And suddenly we were surrounded by people who wanted to join in.” Later, members started to bring their children along too and they now form the majority. The key to success? Enjoying doing something together – and having clear rules. “Anyone who misbehaves is thrown out,” says the skilled steelworker, laughing. You don’t doubt him for a second.
The aim: to recognize the work and dedication of volunteers
Jürgen Schaab is one of many people at thyssenkrupp Steel who give up their spare time for a good cause. To strengthen and support their work, a new “steel heroes” association Förderverein Hüttenhelden e.V. has now been set up. Employees who promote education, equality, and social responsibility in their local community can apply to Hüttenhelden for support. They will then receive funding for their project which can be used to pay for urgently needed equipment, advertising material, or a planned event, etc.
“There are a lot of people here who have been volunteering sometimes for many years for the good of the community,” says Nicole Sommer from the Corporate Citizenship team of thyssenkrupp Steel. “We want to give this work greater visibility and recognition. And of course we hope that this platform will also inspire others to get involved.”
Experience shows volunteering is not a one-way street
Corporate citizenship has always been a key priority at thyssenkrupp Steel: The focus is on activities in communities close to our plants, often with the aim of addressing social and educational inequalities. Local partnerships, mostly with small clubs and initiatives, play a central role. From this corporate citizenship work came the idea to recognize employees’ social engagement.
But promoting volunteer work is not a one-way street. Nicole Sommer: “A sense of responsibility is a character trait. It also shows itself of course in the way people work and characterizes the kind of people we need in our company.”
Maximilian Komp is one of those people. As a sales management specialist, he deals with financial ratios and legal requirements with regard to pricing. After work, he dedicates his time to a topic above all men can find difficult to address: mental health problems, particularly depression. To rectify this, Maximilian Komp and a friend started up “Gefährten mit Bärten” (friends with beards).
The basis: an open corporate culture
“With our initiative we are encouraging others to deal openly with depression, to get the information they need and link up with others affected,” says the 29-year-old. His light-hearted social media posts and authentic viewpoint speak above all to millennials – people aged between 20 and 35. “Five years ago I was severely depressed myself,” says the motorbike enthusiast. A colleague advised him to seek help. “I’m still grateful for the openness shown to me by the company doctor and many others at thyssenkrupp Steel.” This positive experience inspired Maximilian Komp to invest a lot of his spare time in building his network of “friends with beards”.
Meanwhile Jürgen Schaab is sitting behind the reception desk at Budokan, welcoming bodybuilders and Thai boxers of the future. Which vocational skills does he bring to his volunteer work? He thinks for a moment. “It’s the other way round,” he says. “Dealing with different people all the time here at the sports club helps me in my job. At the plant, work can be really tough and stressful. So it’s good to be able to listen and empathize.” A skill that our steel heroes have in spades.
Hüttenhelden e.V. is open to new applications – and patrons. For more info: huettenhelden.de