Bettina Schierling and Axel Braun: They are the centre

A double portrait of the two from the FHWS Service Centres

 © Simones Friese / Alicia Weigel

Whether in Schweinfurt or in Würzburg: FHWS has a Service Centre with switchboard in both cities. Bettina Schierling and Axel Braun are the central points of contact there. What separates them and what connects them somehow.

Photo of Axel Braun
Axel Braun receives all of the parcels and letters in Schweinfurt. (© Simone Friese)

“FHWS Schweinfurt. Braun. Hello,” a Franconian-sounding, deep voice sounds from the phone handset. This friendly voice belongs to Axel Braun. This is how he greets everyone who calls the Schweinfurt FHWS switchboard. Braun, originally from Hofheim in Lower Franconia cannot suppress the Franconian dialect here. He is Franconian through and through. He has worked at the Schweinfurt Service Centre, which is also the switchboard, for 15 years. But that was not always the case.

He originally trained as a carpenter. Owing to an injury, he had to switch to a job in which the strain is not as high. “I retrained because of this and thus joined FHWS in August 2006,” says Braun. The Schweinfurt Service Centre premises have changed a lot since then. “I helped to build and arrange how it is now,” he remembers. He grins: “But that was a long time ago.” His office can be found on the left in the main building at Ignaz-Schön-Straße 11.

Post receiving and delivery at a distance at FHWS

Axel Braun’s Würzburg counterpart is Bettina Schierling. She has also been working at the Service Centre for some time. For ten years, to be exact. Her office can be found at Münzstraße 12. Once you come through the main entrance and go straight ahead, you will see her. A glass door and a large window indicate the Würzburg Service Centre. A small book trolley with a sign which says: “Please keep your distance. Post can be dropped off here.” stands in front of the room. Behind the glass front is a counter and behind that – hardly recognisable – Bettina Schierling. She may not be particularly tall, but her blue-grey eyes gleam all the more for it. During these times of coronavirus only with an FFP2 mask and at a distance, of course.

Picture of a door with a sign
(© Alicia Weigel)

The 38-year-old trained as an office worker at the Caritas Association Würzburg. She then took a circuitous route to the public library in Gemünden. “There, I saw a job advertisement for the FHWS library,” says Bettina Schierling. “I thought to myself: you should apply for that. And I was lucky and joined FHWS Würzburg as a result”. The job in the library was fixed term, and so she finally arrived at the Service Centre in 2011. “I would also still help out in the library if someone was needed. I enjoyed it a lot,” she likes to think back. And this despite the fact that she is not a big booklover herself. It was the human contact that she enjoyed so much there. She is currently missing it hugely.

Quote Bettina Schierling: -	“Because of working from home, only a few colleagues come by every day to collect the post. Currently I always say: it's like Groundhog Day every day.”

Personal contact with students and staff is lacking

Normally, both Axel Braun and Bettina Schierling would have a lot of contact with people every day. But Covid-19 has changed things here too. You simply see significantly fewer people, says Axel Braun. “Previously, students would come to me to hand something in or ask about something. That is sorely lacking,” the Hofheim-native says. Bettina Schierling agrees. She particularly misses the hustle and bustle in the building, even winding her way between groups of students. “The variety is simply missing. There's nothing new. There’s no-one at the door asking me to help them. Because of working from home, only a few colleagues come by every day to collect the post. Currently I always say: it's like Groundhog Day every day.”

They both normally have variety aplenty in their jobs. Because they are the proverbial centre. Everything comes together here. All of the letters and parcels that FHWS employees receive pass through the hands of the Service Centre. This involves more than just emptying the letterboxes. The actual central post is delivered separately, as are the various parcels. “I sort them and then wait for the colleagues to collect them,” explains Braun. It is exciting when a letter arrives which they cannot allocate. “Then you feel like a detective,” says Bettina Schierling and laughs. Fundamentally, providing information is also part of their job. “We also have the switchboard here and therefore have to know what’s happening at FHWS,” says the Würzburg resident.

Quote Axel Braun: I then look for the best way I can help each person.
Axel Braun sorting letters.
Axel Braun has worked at the Schweinfurt Service Centre for 15 years. (© Simone Friese)

A central hub for everything

But the switchboard is literally the actual “centre” of FHWS in other respects too. If something isn't working, most people call the Service Centre, says Axel Braun. “I then look for the best way I can help each person,” he explains. For this reason, the two of them also know most of the employees at their site. Finally, it is also their job to distribute hundreds of letters every day. Once you have dealt with a name once or twice, you notice it almost automatically, says Braun. He is also one of the few people who is still working on site in Schweinfurt. Ultimately, he can’t send parcels from at home in Hofheim.

Bettina Schierling is also one of the few people to still be working in the building at Münzstraße 12 in Würzburg. “I still have the most external contact in the household here.” Only parcel services and mail delivery services are allowed in. Despite this, the empty FHWS sometimes seems a bit spooky to her. “FHWS is almost like a little haunted house. Something rattles now and then.” Which is why she also always has the door closed. Then it is at least quiet. She can still see people through the glass door. She can’t hide behind it and she doesn't want to. 

Photo of Bettina Schierling
Bettina Schierling is “the best” in the building at Münzstraße 12 in Würzburg. At least a few colleagues say so. (© Alicia Weigel)

Nature and people for balance

Observing her environment is what Bettina Schierling enjoys most anyway. She is a woman who doesn’t like to be the centre of attention. She likes to observe and moves slowly. In her free time, the woman originally from Main-Spessart region likes to walk along the Main river. She always has her mobile phone to hand in order to take new photos of her favourite subject, Marienberg Fortress in Würzburg. 

Axel Braun also likes nature. Which is why he likes living in Hofheim so much – and has done since childhood. “The rural environment on the edge of Haßberge is simply beautiful,” he explains. It is perfect for hiking and walking. Even if walking is too often neglected. There is always something to be done at work and at home. His two children also keep him busy. For balance, he is involved in two local associations: the volunteer fire brigade and the Schützengesellschaft Hofheim shooting club. “Sometimes we win at sport shooting and sometimes we lose,” he says and laughs. But it’s all about having fun and he does have fun anyway.

Even though the two of them look very different at first glance, they both have one thing in common: the most important thing to them is their health. They and many other employees at FHWS have learned to value it even more during the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo of Alicia Weigel

An article by
Alicia Weigel