By Lisa Dunn
Becker Iron & Metal fired up the grill and opened its doors to first responders in a community outreach effort it hopes will have multiple benefits.
Most of us believe in the value of personal engagement in our home communities, but we might not give much thought to the community around our businesses—the residents, other businesses, schools, government officials, and first responders we interact with while at work. At Becker Iron & Metal (Venice, Ill.), we’re working to integrate ourselves into and positively affect our community. We think it’s the right thing to do, and we also believe doing so will have a variety of benefits for the company. It will boost our corporate reputation, promote brand awareness, increase our employees’ morale, help recruit prospective employees, foster the trust of the community, and improve our safety and the perception of our operations as safe and sound.
In past years we have organized community outreach programs and events such as school supply drives, food drives, holiday gift drives, and fundraising projects for various local groups. These ventures have all proven to be great sources of connectivity with the community and shared joy for our employees. This summer we tried something new: We hosted a barbecue for our community’s first responders on July 2. We extended the invitation to not only the police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical service personnel who go out on emergency calls, but also to all the dispatchers and administrative staff who are such an important part of the team. Our goal is to create a safe environment for all employees, visitors, and neighbors—and, of course, any first responders who could potentially answer the call about an emergency at our facility.
We held the event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to give departments more flexibility to send people across different shifts. Nearly two dozen first responders attended, and we prepared additional plates of food they could take back to their respective departments for those who had to remain on duty. Every one of our employees participated as well. They helped decorate the space, cooked and served the food and drink, brought food to share, and ate and conversed with the first responders during the event. One of the biggest hits of the event was “The Beast,” a barbecue grill hand-crafted by one of our employees, Victor Gonzalez. His sense of pride in that grill is phenomenal.
In addition to offering plenty of good food and drink, we gave tours of the facility. We have had first responders visit our facility in the past to familiarize them with its layout. This time, we focused the tours on known hazards and what they could expect if they need to respond to an emergency. We also solicited suggestions for how we could make our facility safer for them. One first responder was surprised we had even asked the question.
“I can’t believe you are really asking us what you can do for us,” he said. “No one has ever even hinted about being concerned about anything other than if they are up to code, and how fast we can respond.”
Company Co-President Dan Becker emphasized that we are thankful for them, and we want them to go home to their families in the same way they arrive here. (This is also something he says—sincerely—at every employee safety meeting.)
In addition to showing our support for the first responders and getting their input on how to create a safer environment, we were able to do a little educating. Some of the law enforcement personnel who attended were unaware of all of the recordkeeping requirements we must follow under state regulations. While they all knew about the problem of metals theft, we had a chance to tell them about ISRI’s response to the issue, most notably the Scrap Theft Alert program and the mutual goal of curbing theft. By sharing our knowledge and our commitment to compliance, we created a greater respect for our company’s and the recycling industry’s response to the issue.
It’s important to be a good neighbor and network with those in positions of enforcement and support. An event such as this can be very budget-friendly and still accomplish multiple objectives. And the first responders very much appreciated the effort. We can’t always quantify the value of these community-building efforts, but we can see it in the pride of the employees, the relationships we’ve formed, and the general sense of enjoyment from all involved. We fully embrace those outcomes and will continue to make them a priority.
Lisa Dunn is quality, environment, health, and safety director for Becker Iron & Metal, a fourth-generation scrap recycling firm in Venice, Ill.
Becker Iron & Metal fired up the grill to celebrate local first responders while building safety connections.