In a nook hidden behind some tree branches off Route 176 near McHenry is 70-year-old Carol Sanders’ home. Since her husband died, taking care of the cozy space hasn’t been easy. She reached out for help, but it was awhile before anyone answered.
Then came Jerry Eiserman.
Inside Sanders’ living room, Eiserman and Max Bee, a volunteer from McHenry’s First United Methodist Church, add life to the blank, wood-planked wall with a colorful painting. Then they clean out another room of any miscellaneous old VCR tapes, an old broken fan, her husband’s old work boots, and old eight-tracks. They tidy it up into spotless condition the best they can.
Stamped on the front of the beige, safari-esque hat Eiserman proudly sports are the words “MISSION POSSIBLE” in red-and-black stenciled letters. It’s the mission he and Bee’s mother, Associate Pastor Lori Bee, started at the church in effort to lend McHenry County a helping hand and offer young people an opportunity to give back to the community.
“People didn’t realize the need in our McHenry area; there’s such a need,” Eiserman said. “People are very good, and they’re giving. And this is one way they can help people who are less fortunate.”
The program is modeled after the mission trips that the church youth group took to Mississippi, New Orleans, Tennessee and West Virginia, where they worked on painting and building houses, and cleaning them up for those in need. They brought the success of the mission trips back home to continue their work.
Eiserman does more for the church than Mission Possible, though. He and his wife cook dinner for the youth group on Wednesday nights. He’s an usher at the 8 a.m. service and the former treasurer. He runs errands and performs fixer-upper jobs around the church. And, according to a longtime First United churchgoer Margaret Deason, through his hard work and commitment in the church and beyond, everybody knows Eiserman.
“He’s a saint, he really is,” said Bee, 21. “He’s honestly one of the most giving people I’ve ever met.”
After starting his teaching career at McHenry Junior High in 1968, Eiserman retired in 2003 from Parkland Middle School. But he’s still around as a substitute teacher every now and then, and he also works in the kitchen at the school cafeteria.
From 1976 to 1997, he worked at Six Flags Great America during the summers to supplement his teaching salary. After that, he became a concessions supervisor for the McHenry Parks Department each summer.
An avid sports fan, Eiserman also taught basketball and football classes to kids through the parks department, and although he quit refereeing prep basketball games a few years ago, he still wears the white hat on the football field.
After watching students and even students of students pass through his classroom, listen to the rule of his whistle, and shake his hand at church, Eiserman has found new satisfaction in his job as an educator and role model at First United Methodist.
“It’s nice to see the youth grow up to be responsible adults who give back to the community and to the church,” he said.
And after the success of the mission trips and Mission Possible, he puts more trust in the younger generation today than most.
“There’s good in everybody,” he said. “If you give youth the opportunity to do something, they will usually meet the challenge and succeed.”
Eiserman says it is his goal for Mission Possible to grow wider and to expand its reach. He and McHenry Township Supervisor Donna Schaefer are looking for more McHenry County clients who need a hand from the church.
“The people that we have helped are so appreciative and so thankful for what we do,” Eiserman said. “And the people that do it, they have the same feeling also. It’s just an awesome feeling – people getting together and helping each other. I think that’s why God put us here.”
The Eiserman lowdown
Family: Wife Mary; two children, Jennifer and Greg; grandchildren Joe, Mary B. and James; and his son-in-law, Chad, and daughter-in-law, Jennifer.
Favorite volunteer work: Going on church mission trips with the youth groups.
Favorite pastimes: Officiating high school football games, fishing, and canoe trips
Favorite past jobs: Eighth-grade math teacher at Parkland Middle School in McHenry and merchandise supervisor at Six Flags Great America