German-American couple spends 30 years volunteering
WIESBADEN, Germany -- Chris Eisenberg teaches a German class for newcomers Feb. 4, 2020, at Army Community Service. Eisenberg has been a volunteer teacher for 30 years. (Photo Credit: Emily Jennings) VIEW ORIGINAL

WIESBADEN, Germany -- When the Gulf War began, SanDee Eisenberg, an American living in Hochheim, felt compelled to reach out and help American families in any way she could.

After an extensive search to find a way to help out, she responded to a newspaper ad from the German army who connected them with a family at Wiesbaden Army Community Service, whose Soldier was deployed.

Eisenberg, along with her German husband, Chris Eisenberg, then began volunteering with the USO. She ended up working as their accountant for seven years and volunteering for about 10.

For the past 30 years, Chris Eisenberg, a retired high school teacher, has taught German at ACS. He estimates he's put in more than 3,000 hours and taught more than 4,000 people in his German classes, in which he focuses on pronunciation and culture.

The relaxed nature of the classes helps newcomers feel more comfortable going out and interacting in their new host nation.

"There's no pressure," said student Jessica Diaz. "It makes me more likely to try (speaking German) instead of just asking people if they speak English."

Now retired, the Eisenbergs began their volunteer efforts while they were still working full time.

Over the years, the couple has volunteered in a variety of ways. They served the American Red Cross Wiesbaden as patient liaisons, before it was an official title. SanDee Eisenberg has knitted caps and booties for newborns; baked for all sorts of events, including banana bread for blood drives and, she estimates, hundreds of thousands of cookies for the Wiesbaden USO; stamped and covered books to prepare them for circulation at the Wiesbaden Library; taught English as a second language alongside her husband's German classes; and conducted walking historic tours of Frankfurt for newcomers at the former Rhein-Main Air Base and the American Consulate in Frankfurt.

They acted as liaisons with the German Red Cross during the Berlin Airlift 70th Anniversary celebration in 2019 to help translate.

"They're both fantastic," Mary Cheney ACS program manager said of the Eisenbergs. "They're integral to the community."

The couple said they do what they do to make people's time in Germany easier.

"It's a good way to keep in touch with Americans, since I've been in Germany for 50 years this year," SanDee Eisenberg said of volunteering. "The day is good when you're able to help somebody."

The couple said volunteering has allowed them to do things and meet people they otherwise wouldn't have.

"Volunteering has enriched our lives completely," SanDee Eisenberg said. "We've met so many interesting people."