People: The Real Power of Community Engagement

by Scott Buckiso, Senior Vice President & Chief Manufacturing Officer - NAFR

Giving back to support the communities where we live and work has been a tradition and commitment at U. S. Steel since our beginnings in 1901. We’ve always believed that our business thrives when we are actively engaged in the communities that surround us.

When we envision the future, it’s impossible to separate the interests of our company and our communities. They’re inextricably linked. The latest expression of this philosophy is our Best for All® growth strategy, which places a primary emphasis on sustainable innovation for the good of our company, our customers and our world.

At both the corporate and local plant levels, we give back in a variety of ways, including funding, partnerships and employee volunteering to support a range of causes. Our overall vision: to protect and improve quality of life in the communities that U. S. Steel calls home.

The power of people
While funding is a critically important way to have a positive impact on the world around us, the most compelling stories are ones where U. S. Steel employees step up and get involved directly to help their community.

HQ Global Procurement team members volunteering for North Hills Community Outreach, October 2020.  Photo caption: David Ploskina (left), Jay Pollard (center), and Nicholas Goussetis (right).Volunteerism is the true embodiment of community engagement. As important as financial support is and always will be, volunteering is so much more powerful than writing a check—it’s the giving of time and effort. It’s commitment at an individual, personal level. It’s face-to-face engagement, the kind that builds deeper understanding and lasting relationships between people and organizations.

What our employees do out in the community every day is among the strongest expressions of our culture, where a strong work ethic meets an even stronger desire to help others, guided by a clear, shared view of the big picture. At this level, you know it’s real. Our people don’t volunteer to get credit. They do it out of a passion for doing the right thing. They give of themselves to make a visible, valuable difference for the people and causes they care about.

Making a difference in the Mon Valley

There are so many stories across our company of U. S. Steel employees giving their time to help others in their local areas. Too many to name. But there are none better than the spirit of service we see every day in the Mon Valley in western Pennsylvania, a critical part of our steel operations.

Our coke plant in Clairton. Our steelmaking plant in Braddock. Two finishing plants in West Mifflin. With some of these facilities dating back more than a hundred years—the Braddock plant was U. S. Steel co-founder Andrew Carnegie’s first steel mill—our history in these communities is long. We have gone through tough times and boom times together. Through it all, the passion and commitment of our people to make a difference has never faltered.

Supporting the Clairton City School District
A great example of U. S. Steel people rolling up their sleeves to get things done in the community is in their support of the Clairton City School District.

Clairton plant employees donate their time proactively, organizing a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) homework club, mentoring as part of the local Junior Achievement program, participating in career days, providing career coaching and job opportunities to Clairton students and graduates, and more.

Like so many public school districts across the United States, Clairton schools operate under a very tight budget. Unexpected challenges ranging from a pandemic to infrastructure breakdowns add to the already daunting task of educating children today.

As the recent pandemic unfolded, Clairton City School Superintendent Dr. Ginny Hunt knew early on that the district would need laptops to support distance learning and if she waited for government funding, most computer providers would be out of stock. She reached out to Clairton Plant Manager Mike Rhoads and he quickly arranged U. S. Steel funding that enabled her to order and receive 40 laptops.

Then, just as students were ready to return for classroom learning in fall of 2020, a municipal water main broke, flooding the Clairton elementary school classrooms and the boiler room on the first floor. The water company and insurance claims funded restoration of the classrooms and boiler room, but our Clairton Plant employees wanted to know what else they could do. Ultimately, they transformed the entire school, including undamaged areas, with new paint, carpentry repairs and new carpet.

Over the course of that summer, U. S. Steel volunteer teams from the Clairton Plant as well as our corporate headquarters and other locations donated more than 2,000 hours to paint walls, make repairs and lay new carpet in classrooms, offices and common areas, replacing drab and dated colors to create a bright, fresh new learning environment. Our volunteers are now involved in a renovation of the auditorium currently underway.

Dr. Hunt was extremely pleased. “We operate on a negative school budget. We can only afford to repaint about five school rooms a year,” she told us. “So, to see all these U. S. Steel people come in every day for months… they were so positive and enthusiastic. They wanted to work. And they wanted the school to be a nice, clean learning environment for the kids. It made me proud to be part of this community.”

Veterans taking action in the Mon Valley
ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) are a key part of the importance U. S. Steel places on fostering a positive, inclusive work environment where everyone feels they belong. Here, ERGs are focused on more than internal activities. True to our strong spirit of giving back, many of these groups go out and make a positive impact on the surrounding communities.

One case in point: the Mon Valley Works’ veterans ERG, called SERVE. The group saw an opportunity in Clairton’s Memorial Hill, a park commemorating area war veterans that had fallen into disrepair due to budget shortfalls.

SERVE volunteers took action. They transported their own equipment including riding lawn mowers to landscape and beautify the park. They mowed, weeded, mulched and raked ahead of Memorial Day, when the number of visitors increases. The effort has become an annual clean-up that has grown to include memorial markers, which they repaired and replaced in a stopgap measure. Plans are underway to install new bronze markers.   

The SERVE group also supports the Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship in Pittsburgh at the ministry’s Veterans’ Home, a facility that provides transitional housing, rehabilitation, counseling and meals for formerly homeless vets. Over the last few years our volunteers have organized food drives to collect non-perishable goods for the home, taken veterans to a Pirates game and helped out with an annual Easter meal that feeds 60–70 walk-ins.

Human actions, human impact
These are just a few of the countless actions our people take in service of our communities. Each of these actions is meaningful at the most basic, human level. Face to face, heart to heart, people helping people. Working hard, working together, focused on the human needs and values that unite us all—this is the kind of community engagement that does so much more than fund.

This is the kind of community engagement that inspires us—all of us—to do even more. 

I'm so very proud of the entire North American Flat Roll Team for the Culture of Caring and their intense efforts working with all communities where we live and work!

#ICYMI: In Fall of 2021, U. S. Steel and the Pittsburgh Penguins, launched the Reading Champions program with schools in the Mon Valley that challenged 3rd grade student to read for 20 minutes a day (the length of a hockey period.) In its pilot year, U. S. Steel Reading Champions read a total of 161,668 minutes!  Click here to watch a short video about the program. 

About the author

Scott Buckiso is Senior Vice President and Chief Manufacturing Officer - North American Flat Roll. A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Scott joined U. S. Steel in 1990 as a management associate at Mon Valley Works' Irvin Plant. He's held several roles within the company and now has executive responsibility for all North American Flat-Rolled production facility activities, as well as the company’s logistics services organization, engineering, corporate quality, process innovation and iron ore mining operations. 

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