***image1***The German-American Community Office in Kaiserslautern celebrates its second anniversary Saturday.
GACO, sponsored by the KMC and the city of Kaiserslautern, supports Americans and Germans who need help with German-American matters. Brig. Gen. Erwin F. Lessel III, former KMC commander, and Kaiserslautern’s Lord Mayor Bernhard Deubig, opened the office Feb. 19, 2003. Its bilingual staff consists of host nation advisors and a relation consultant.
Since its opening, 2,287 Americans have sought GACO’s assistance and support in administrative matters, culture questions and recreational and sports ideas, said Claudia Beavers, 435th Air Base Wing host nation advisor.
“This includes questions on how to dispose of trash, how to obtain the right drivers’ license for U.S. civilians or how to retire in Germany,” said Sascha Dixon, 415th Base Support Battalion host nation specialist. “Some questions require a lot of time for research and calling official institutions.”
Germans also contact GACO to get involved in activities, foster friendship or to find out how to obtain a U.S. contract.
“We also have Germans contacting us who look for their American fathers,” said Ms. Beavers. “We often are successful and reunite families.” It also works the other way around. The GACO staff does genealogical research for Americans who want to find out about their German forefathers.
Since opening, GACO has provided service to 4,258 customers – Germans and Americans. Most of its customers made personal visits to the office, but other requests were via e-mail, phone calls, and letters and faxes.
“The considerable increase in the number of inquiries within a year shows how significant this office is,” said Ms. Beavers. “More and more people hear about us and don’t hesitate to contact us. We try to ease U.S. servicemembers’ stay in Germany and interact with other nationalities.”
Also, the USO stops at the office during their newcomer’s orientation tours giving newly arrived Americans the chance to ask questions right away.
“Usually they are interested in how to contact German-American friendship clubs or sports associations and where to take German classes,” said Ms. Beavers. “Even for questions they might have later on, they feel confident to visit us because now they know where we are.”
To make themselves known to the KMC, the office participates in many local events and fairs. In December, they organized a program with American participation at Kaiserslautern’s Christmas market.
GACO is located on Lauterstrasse 2 in Kaiserslautern, across from the city hall. Opening hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday. The staff can be reached by phone at 0631-363-3010, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.gaco-kl.de.