BY JEFF FALK
Over the years, there have been countless individuals associated with Lebanon County athletics who have donated a lot for the benefit of the many. But when it comes to money, no one has contributed more to the local sports scene than the Arnolds.
Perhaps a better way to characterize Ed and Jeannie Arnold’s contributions to local athletics is to first examine their overall financial donations to the Lebanon community, then relate it to sports.
Over the past decade or so, the Arnolds have donated to charitable institutions – both local and national – a sum of dollars in the 30 million range, and a good chunk of that change has gone to Lebanon County athletic causes. While not necessarily athletically oriented, both of the Arnolds recognize the positive effects that sports can have on young lives.
The millions of dollars that they have donated to the local sports scene make the Arnolds the most generous philanthropists in the history of Lebanon County sports.
“I couldn’t comment on that,” said Ed Arnold. “Off hand, I can’t think of anyone (who might have contributed more). Obviously we’ve contributed a lot of money to local sports. Possibly, that’s correct. Sports are important because they build character, and character is very important.
“I really haven’t thought about a total sum,” added Ed Arnold. “I have some idea. We support a half a dozen major charities, and they tend to be in the local area.”
“It’s incredible. It’s millions of dollars,” said Jeannie Arnold of the total sum she and her husband have donated. “Boy, I would say it’s more than 20 million dollars. It’s a lot more than that. To give you an accurate number, I can’t. But it’s big. It’s what we want to be able to do.
“I haven’t seen any records, but we probably are the most generous (in Lebanon County),” added Jeannie Arnold. “But we don’t do it for the accolades. I’m just a soft touch. But I know there’s other people who have been very generous.”
During the past few years, the Arnolds have either funded or have been major contributors to Lebanon Valley College’s Arnold Sports Center and Arnold Field, the turf that was installed on Cedar Crest High School’s Earl Boltz Stadium, athletic programs in the Lebanon school district and at the Lebanon YMCA, just to name the most obvious.
Outside of the realm of sports, the Arnolds have contributed large sums of money to the Lebanon library, Lebanon Valley College, the Lebanon school district, Penn State, the Hershey Medical Center, the Boy Scout of America, Cornwall Manor, Lebanon Community Theatre, Lebanon Free Clinic and the Lebanon Rescue Mission, among others.
“I got with Cedar Crest in putting their new turf field in,” said Ed Arnold. “They said they got a good deal. I told them, ‘you bring me a letter that says you’re going to put up half, and I’ll put up half.’ Now it’s a major scheduling thing, trying to get on it. It (the turf) does wear out, but it’s much more durable. The thing that impressed me is how many kids are going to use it. When you give something, the big thing is that it’s getting used.
“I never really was involved with athletics,” Ed Arnold continued. “I wasn’t particularly athletically-motivated. But I think it’s very good for kids. In our day and age, it develops teamwork. In any of the team sports, it’s (teamwork) critical. My whole thing for our younger generation, it gives them something positive to do. And I think kids need to get exercise.”
“I got really involved with the women’s basketball team at Lebanon Valley College,” said Jeannie Arnold. “I thoroughly enjoy that. I’ve gone to practices. I got the girls to go up to the Hershey Medical Center cancer unit. I had donated to Penn State when I found out about LVC’s Pink Game. I felt like a traitor because my husband was on the board (at LVC). I just had a wonderful time with the girls and Todd (Goclowski) the coach. And I’m not an athletic person.
At one point or another during his business career, Ed Arnold, a graduate of Lebanon High School, owned New Penn Motor Express, Arnold Logistics and Leb-Arnold Trucking. A native of Rhode Island, Jeannie Arnold’s professional background is in the health care field, and nursing specifically.
The Arnolds have been married for 15 years.
“If you get them in sports they’ll graduate,” said Ed Arnold, 73. “Which is a very, very important aspect of sports. I’ve also come to the conclusion that the arts are as important as sports. Again, they have to work together. I think it’s important to help kids because they’re the future.
“We have people say to us, ‘You don’t know how many people you have helped,'” Ed Arnold added. “We get piles of notes saying ‘Thank You’. Stuff like that does make you feel good because you know you’re doing good. If people are using it, it has value.”
“There’s so many areas we’ve been involved with, and athletics is one,” said Jeannie Arnold, 68. “First of all, sports really keeps kids out of any mischief or trouble. They have goals. They have mentors. And they (sports) can keep them healthy. Exercise is very important. On a basketball team, you’ve got to work together as a team. Nobody is going to stand out and be a star, the team has to work together.
“I don’t know how many causes we’ve helped,” added Jeannie Arnold. ‘It’s staggering. You feel good because you made a difference. I’m glad we’ve been able to contribute the way we are, and hopefully make a difference with kids. It’s been very gratifying. I don’t even give it a thought.”
The Arnolds tend to down play their philanthropic activities, partly because they have become such a part of their everyday existence. But they are certainly passionate about the causes they support.
“It’s an investment,” said Ed Arnold. “Your return is not as money, it’s a return of life. I want to see a return on my investment, like people’s lives becoming better. It’s made the world a little bit better. It’s really inspiring. It’s a fabulous return.
“But there are other ways to contribute,” added Ed Arnold. “There are people who have donated hours and hours of their time. Good volunteers are very important. I never liked to be compared or singled out. I’m one of many people in Lebanon County concerned with sports. But I think we should stress to be able to compete in sports, you’ve got to be doing well in other areas.”
“Some of it is money,” said Jeannie Arnold, “but I like to get involved with things. Volunteering is very important. It’s not just the money.
“Some of it’s from my nursing background,” continued Jeannie Arnold. “This is totally a new world for us. I came from a modest background. But it’s nice to be in a position to help.”
As one may have gathered, the Arnolds sometimes have a difficult time saying ‘No.’ But they do have certain criterion for their humanitarian pursuits, even if they are subconscious in nature.
“First of all, I got it from my father,” said Ed Arnold. “My father was very generous. We feel like we’re fortunate and therefore we should do it. The biggest challenge is there’s not a lot of non-profits that are run improperly. I’m doing it differently now. I was always one who believed you help those who help themselves. My wife taught me that there are people who can’t help themselves. It has definitely broadened my horizons.
“If I’m the only one contributing, it can’t be a good cause,” Ed Arnold added. “I have to be able to measure the results, and the other thing is that other people are donating. It shows they are making progress. I want to be able to see the results, and I don’t won’t to be the only contributor. Philanthropy in the world, more and more, is moving in that direction.”
“I’ll get a call from somebody,” said Jeannie Arnold. ” ‘It’s only $1,400.’ Most of the time we do give. But I will tell you what irritates me is when we donate, and then don’t hear from them for a year and it’s time for the event, and you get a phone call. To me, that’s an insult.
While the Arnolds certainly worked hard to get the financial place they are currently in, they have been blessed as well. One of the ways they show appreciation for their blessings is by sharing them.
“There is absolutely no question about that,” said Ed Arnold. “Both of us have worked very hard and we were fortunate to be in areas where we were very successful. Just because people can’t do things doesn’t mean they don’t want to. You have to show young people that they can be the best they can be.
“That’s why I do it for the kids locally,” continued Ed Arnold. “But I like to direct where the donation is going and understand the project.”
“We’re blessed we are able to help,” said Jeannie Arnold. “I’m very proud we’re able to do it. I think people know we’re interested in the community. I hope people look at us as philanthropists. It’s important to me that it’s appreciated. I wouldn’t want people to think, ‘they’ve got money and don’t want to share it.’ I hope that’s not the image that’s our there.
“We never seek people out,” added Jeannie Arnold. “Most of the time people will come to us. It’s hard to say ‘no’ because there are so many needs out there. We feel there are so many under-privileged children.”