U.S. Army spreads cheer at Mannheim orphanage
February 22, 2012
MANNHEIM, Germany - Employees of the Security Operations Branch at the USAREUR Office of the Provost Marshal in Heidelberg, as well as the children at the St. Josef Orphanage in Käfertal, in Mannheim, Germany, shared a special day Feb. 3.
Jeff Ganoe, a financial analyst in the branch, suggested the group visit one of the local orphanages following approval of a professional development program that allowed branch members to spend time together.
"Our main objective of this project was to provide to those that are not as fortunate as many of us," Ganoe said.
"Mr. Hoffman, the headmaster of the school, informed us that our visit was more than welcome and suggested some items that the kids could use," said Lt. Col. Enrique Nazario, security operations branch chief.
The school's gym had recently been renovated and their request was for gym equipment or items that the kids could play with.
The Mannheim Exchange and Commissary donated candy, frisbees, soccer balls and children's toys.
The Heidelberg Exchange donated a $50 gift card which was used to buy table tennis paddles and accompanying accessories.
OPM employees bought additional German-English dictionaries for the school's library and new nylon jump ropes for the gym.
"Our visit, which consisted of nine employees, was well received by the children, we had the opportunity to have a tour of the school from Mr. Hoffman as well as visit with some of the children as they were completing their school work," Nazario said.
The 100-year-old institution cares for 102 children ranging in age from three to 18.
"St. Josef's provides a loving, caring and educational surrounding for children who have had the misfortune of having a troubled environment as a child," Nazario explained.
All the children attend local schools and the older kids have their own rooms where they live, eat and sleep.
They attend their local school and return to St. Josef's in the evening as their home.
The school is funded by the Mannheim and Heidelberg city administrations as well as by the state government.
For comfort items, trips and toys, it relies primarily on donations.
If a normal school has reason to call the police due to noticeable abuse of the child or neglect, the police take the child to St. Josef's.
Medical assistance is provided to the child and the child stays at St. Josef's until directed otherwise by the court.
If a child has been abandoned, the child stays with the orphanage for an average of three to four years, and is then placed in foster care with a loving family.
"Our hope is that this visit will not be our last and we'll have the opportunity to conduct our visit semi-annually to the school," Ganoe concluded.
"Our main objective, as mentioned earlier, was to provide to those that weren't as fortunate as many of us -- this was rewarded with many smiles and laughter from the children," he said.
As springtime approaches, the children at St. Josef's like to go camping and members of the USAREUR OPM security operations crew are now in the process of obtaining camping equipment and inflatable beds to make the opportunity available.