By Mark Iacampo, U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels Public AffairsApril 3, 2014
HOHENFELS, Germany -- Hohenfels' German-American Kontakt Club unveiled its new on-post clubhouse in building 334 with an open house and barbeque, April 5.
The club shares the building with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and members of both organizations participated in renovating and outfitting the facility.
"The Health Clinic helped us paint; the Zone and the Thrift Shop donated furniture and supplies," said Edith Worden, Kontakt Club's German president. "It was a real community effort."
"The Hohenfels Kontakt Club and VFW are two organizations that are the top givers when it comes to support in the Hohenfels Military Community (HMC)," said Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth McKoy, U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels command sergeant major. "These two organizations are doing so much to enhance our quality of life it was only fitting that we provide them with the necessary resources to sustain their success."
McKoy added that given the current financially restrained environment, the garrison cannot afford for each organization to have its own building, but having the two groups combine resources provided a viable option.
"This is a low-cost, high-impact move that will allow us to sustain and build on prosperity across the HMC," said McKoy. "This move also gives us yet another venue in which we are engaged in our relationship with our host nation, building capacity and building trust."
Previously, the Kontakt Club had to obtain approval and rent various facilities for any of their functions, such as their annual summer BBQ or Thanksgiving dinners.
Besides a place to hold functions, the clubhouse will serve as a 'hang out' spot for members every Friday night starting at 6 p.m. With snacks, drinks, TV and video games, darts and foosball, there's something for everyone to enjoy.
"It's a casual way to enjoy company with friends. You don't have to spend money on food and stuff, you can just hang out and watch a movie," said Andy Kirschenbauer, Kontakt Club vice-president.
"And if people want to found out if our club is for them, we now have a permanent location where people can find us," added Worden.
The club also holds a monthly bowling night at the Hohenfels Bowling Center, and a 'stammtisch' every month at Josef's Taverne in the village of Hohenfels. In addition, they take various trips throughout the year such as the upcoming visit to Parsberg castle, April 12.
Worden has been a member for nearly twenty years and she still enjoys the sharing of cultures that the Kontakt Club provides.
"We'll do holiday parties and try and combine our traditions," she said. "Like for Christmas, we might do a white elephant gift exchange, but we'll also have St. Nikolaus show up."
Worden said that while on teaching assignment in the States for a year, American families opened their homes to her, making sure she wasn't alone during Thanksgiving or Christmas, and she enjoys returning the favor.
"We have Soldiers that are here all by themselves, and they like coming to the club and just getting to know some people," she said. "And when someone needs help like where can I find this, or how do I get that, we can help them out."
Many of these friendships continue long after U.S. families have returned to the States. Recently, Kirschenbauer visited Texas and stayed with former club member Manuel Baeza. On their trip to California last year, club treasurer Florian Fischer and his family also visited friends they made through the Kontakt Club.
"It's not just a place to hang out, we're forming life-long friendships," said Kirschenbauer.
Some friendships go even deeper.
"I actually met my husband through the Kontakt Club at the Polish cemetery clean-up, several years ago," Worden said, referring to the club's annual community service project.
After twenty years, Kontakt club members feel very gratified to have a place they can call their own.
"This building stands as a testimony by the U.S. Army as to their tremendous confidence and support of this unique organization," said Dennis Bartow, the club's American president. "The commitment to enhance and utilize this building, as demonstrated by the members of the Kontakt Club, truly signifies our respect and trust in the U.S. Army. We will seek to offer as many viable activities with this wonderful facility as possible in the future."
That can't be too soon for 13-year-old Chantal Fischer who enjoys practicing her English with her American friends and says she loves everything about the new clubhouse.
"I come every Friday if I can," she said. "Sometimes when there is nothing for the Kontakt Club for a whole week, I think I might explode!"