Arnold Sentinel: Arnold Community Foundation Has Most Successful Fundraiser to Date

Arnold Sentinel: Arnold Community Foundation Has Most Successful Fundraiser to Date
The 2021 ACFF Group Philanthropist of the Year award went to (from left) Clay Mohr, Gary Blevins, Bobbie Smith, Patty Lamberty, Mary Becker, and Carolyn Watkins, who had the vision of building Arnold’s community center and made it happen. Not pictured: Ken Wehrman and Tiff Varney. (The Arnold Sentinel Photo)

Last Saturday night, the annual Arnold Community Foundation Fundraiser had its most successful auction ever, grossing $67,000.00. One-hundred-eighty people attended the event, which included a social hour, meal, live auction, and presentation of philanthropic awards.

Wendell Brott served as this year’s auctioneer, and residents were more than willing to raise their hand to build a better future for the community of Arnold. Committee members attributed the large amount of money raised this year to the large number of donations received for the auction, and the thriving ag economy. After expenses, half of the proceeds will be donated to the Arnold Community Center Fund for flooring and other needs that will benefit the community center in the future.

ACFF Committee member Renee Bubak presented the philanthropic awards, and one was a big surprise. Her introductions follow:

ACFF Philanthropist of the Year 2021

“Arnold continues to thrive because our community is made up of hard-working, forward-thinking entrepreneurs and doers. Most of the improvements that happen in our town, are through the generous time, energy, and funds from people and organizations who have the best interest of Arnold and its future in their hearts. Although the list of people we could celebrate is long, this evening I have the privilege of sharing about one such outstanding community member.

If you have enjoyed the view from the new football stands, you can bet that our philanthropist was a key piece in hauling those bleachers into our new South Loup home team side.

If your kids or grandkids have been thrilled to play on the new equipment at our Arnold City Park, this person was integral there, too – bringing in his skid steer and crane to set up play structures and more.

How about the Arnold Recreation area? Construction of the fishing pier, building of the shower/restroom facility, welding and construction of the picnic shelter, going to dismantle the children’s playground in North Platte that was hauled over to become our great new play structure at the Rec area – these are all ways he helped our local Rotarian projects come to fruition. 

Shane Cool receives the 2021 Individual Philanthropist of the Year award from Arnold Community Foundation Fund Board member Renee Bubak, Saturday night at the community center during the ACFF’s annual banquet and fundraiser auction. (The Arnold Sentinel Photo)

Another example is the facelift of our precious cemetery. He and his crew removed 40 or more dead or dying trees and he was part of the efforts to re-fence and put in water lines for hydrants. We can look on with pride at these improvements.

Let’s jump across the road from there.

All those golfers out there – do you remember the year we switched from having to rake our sand greens to enjoying our luscious grass greens? Well, this person was on the Arnold Golf Association Board to help make that development happen, too.

These are just a few of the highlights, but I hope you are noticing a pattern here – there are very few areas in Arnold that tonight’s award recipient has not touched. Whether through his own time, his crew, his equipment, or his funding – our philanthropist has been the guy to call. I talked to Clay Mohr – another one of those in our community that is involved in a good share of the projects – and he said this about our recipient. ‘If you need something, just ask. He could be counted on to get things done.’ In addition to all of the projects in the community, there are countless project at the school, both big and small, that ‘this guy’ was a part of. 

His impact is felt beyond the town as well. Neighbors helping neighbors – that is what he does. When ranchers are doing controlled burns, he and his 200 -gallon fire truck he built are there to assist. When someone has storm damage or a flooded basement, you’ll find him pitching in doing whatever is needed. I happen to have personal experience with that one! 

Not only is ‘our guy’ a doer, he is a leader. Village Board, School Board, Methodist Church Trustee Board, SORC board, Arnold Community Foundation Board, and more. He helped push for the LB840 funds that have led to significant improvements in our town and he was SORC race director for 20 years. Clearly, he values the quality of life in Arnold and has been part of organizations that have brought in over a million dollars of funds for our town’s betterment. 

Our philanthropist has invested directly in the youth of our community. Even as a young man himself, he was an Eagle Scout at age 15 and encouraged many other scouts to achieve merit badges. When my son and classmates were cub scouts, he again was a willing volunteer. As his kids were growing up, you could see him coaching basketball, t-ball, or whatever was needed. Most recently, his efforts in building sets, hauling the set trailer, and helping with the very successful One Act team has been appreciated.

When I asked his wife about the many volunteer experiences our philanthropist had participated in, she had a hard time coming up with a list. Why is that? Well, because helping others is just natural for him. It is never a ‘big deal.’ It is just what he does – all the time! His parents also shared that his most admired characteristic is his kindness to family, friends, and all acquaintances. As a life-long friend, I would have to agree!

So, please help me welcome our Philanthropist of the Year – Shane Cool. 

As a side note, our original candidate was not able to be here tonight, so Shane thought we just weren’t giving an award this year. Surprise!”

ACFF Group Philanthropy Award 2021

“I feel so fortunate to be here in our community center tonight with this brand-new floor – isn’t it outstanding! We are so pleased to have you all here as half of our money raised tonight goes toward this cause. 

Which reminds me of a story. It begins with a social worker, a mortician, a city clerk, and a banker. Oh, and soon after was added a couple of farmer/ranchers, and an industrial arts – or shop- teacher, and later another farmer. We’ll throw in an old sale barn and our setting is complete. No, this is not a bad joke or a fairy tale, but a tribute to several community members. You see, even though all those people I just mentioned had very different perspectives and ideas, they shared a common vision – to build an Arnold Community Center.

Here is the very shortened version of this story.

In March of 2002, community members went door-to-door with a Community Needs Assessment Survey through the Center for Rural Research and Development. The community voiced their opinions, and the need for a community center was front and center a priority. Without hesitation, the social worker volunteered to lead this challenge and soon a Community Center Building Committee was formed. 

In typical Arnold fashion, fund-raising abounded! The first, was a Valentine’s Day Cake Decorating Contest. No surprise to anyone around here, SORC or the Sandhills Open Road Challenge became a partner in this endeavor and quickly raised $10,000 with a car show in August of 2002.

By September, the site – here where the old sale barn once stood – was chosen. At the heart of our community, it is certainly the perfect spot. In the 4 ½ years that followed, this story probably became your story as well, as our community and surrounding area worked together to make this dream a reality. Chamber, Arnold A-Club, Cardinal Booster Club, Rotarians, Methodist Youth Group, Reed’s Food Center, and so many more groups forged ahead to do their part. There were contests, pond tours, silent auctions and fund-raisers at every turn. 

Why is that? Well, this community center, much like the American Red Cross drives that occur here regularly, is the life-line of how our community now functions. Weddings, family reunions, business meetings, After Prom parties, sports practices, JH and JV games, summer league, memorial services, town hall meetings, graduation parties, alumni gatherings, town-wide Chamber events, a warm, dry place to exercise, and so much more. 

With a goal of these great possibilities in mind, the first plans were presented in February of 2003 and by June, already over $116,000 had been raised – a great start toward the committee goal of $675,000. By July of 2004, a Community Development Block Grant for $250,000 put them over the top of their initial goal. Of course, by this point, the costs for completion had raised so the fund-raising push continued. Ground leveling began in September of 2004 and by September of 2005 construction was finally underway! Many volunteers helped make these steps a reality, but it was truly the leadership and dedication of the Arnold Community Building committee that propelled this project forward. By the end of this process, nearly $850,000 was raised. An open house was held in May of 2006. I even found my and my children’s names on the guest list for that day. With a Grand Opening Blow Out on July 3, 2006, a dinner and dance with an estimated 450 people in attendance was held and our community center was officially opened. 

Here we are – 15 years later – enjoying the efforts of those determined board members who spent hours planning, compromising, knocking on doors and making phone calls seeking donations from area businesses and community members. Our Arnold Community Center is truly a shining example of what a community working together can accomplish and today we want to celebrate those who led the way. Their guiding motto was this quote from Winston Churchill, ‘You make a living by what you learn. You make a life by what you give.’ Would those members present, who all gave so greatly, please come forward. They are Mary Becker, Tiff Varney, Patty Lamberty, Ken Wehrman, Carolyn Watkins, Gary Blevins, Clay Mohr, and Bobbie Smith. Several of these also went on to be founding members of the Arnold Community Foundation that we are part of today. Let’s show them our appreciation.”