Lifestyle

Hometown Hero

Hometown Hero, Charlene Arnold, center, is joined by two folks who are very familiar with her volunteer work in the South Whidbey community. Chris Wagner, left, was president of WICA when Arnold served on the organization’s board of directors, and Dave Haworth, who Arnold just joined on the board of the South Whidbey Schools Foundation.   - Brian Kelly
Hometown Hero, Charlene Arnold, center, is joined by two folks who are very familiar with her volunteer work in the South Whidbey community. Chris Wagner, left, was president of WICA when Arnold served on the organization’s board of directors, and Dave Haworth, who Arnold just joined on the board of the South Whidbey Schools Foundation.
— image credit: Brian Kelly

What is your passion? Are you in between passions, or still looking for one?

For Charlene Arnold her passions can be found everywhere – the world is full of them.

Arnold has a “people passion.” Leaning over her kitchen counter, speaking in a soft young voice, that goes with her youthful natural look, she says.

“I didn’t realize this would be my lifelong passion until I was 27 years old.”

“That’s because I got in the way of my own passion before that — I judged people and situations without a clear picture of life. Finally I came out of the fog and embraced all people and their stories. The drama stopped, and it was replaced by a genuine passion for people.”

She says she remembers thinking of what her mom used to say: “If you know of someone needing help, and you have two legs and two arms, then help them.”

Arnold continues to play this motto over in her mind.

Lynn Tippery, a fellow volunteer, had just moved here in 1992 when she suffered two heart attacks.

“I had known a few people before I moved here, but didn’t have any close friends,” Tippery said. “Charlene came forward and welcomed me, and was at the hospital immediately, holding my hand, telling me I was going to make it.

“When I was moved to the Everett hospital, she followed me there, and stayed with me for hours in intensive care.

“That kind of compassion is so genuine and love filled,” Tippery said. “I just know it was part of the healing of my heart and why I am alive today.”

Arnold shares her people passion face to face, and within nonprofit groups. She was a Hearts and Hammers board member for 10 years.

Randy Hudson, president of Hearts and Hammers, writes these words:

“Charlene is the perfect volunteer — she can’t say no, and she never shies away from a challenge. She’s the one you turn to when no else is jumping on a new task.

“Charlene is a fundraising dynamo,” Hudson added. “She’s helped raise over $200,000 for H & H. That’s a whole lot of repaired homes. She has an infectious laugh, a big heart, and boundless energy. Simply put: Charlene’s a saint.”

She was raised in California along with her younger sister and severely physically and mentally impaired brother. Both of her siblings have become blind.

“My parents really accommodated our schedules and all of our needs growing up. They were soul mates, you couldn’t get in between them. This was certainly a high marriage standard for us to try to emulate.”

She says she never saw them disagree. Her parents both died when Arnold was 21 years old.

It took a few tries for Arnold to get close to her parent’s marriage model.

Her first marriage as a teenager didn’t last.

She later met and married her present husband, Robin, in 1971. But after three years she decided she needed to be on her own again.

However, this ended happily after all, when in 1976 they remarried.

She laughs, but asks seriously: “What I want to know is does the first wedding count – do we get celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary next year?”

Staying home with young children was important to her and her husband.

“There are some things I did well and then there are the things I would do differently,” she says.

“For example I always had to have the house looking perfect. And I let it be known, too. I could be manic in those days, yelling at the kids to clean up.”

Arnold had a revelation when she was cleaning up and found a drawing that her son Tim had drawn of her, with her hair all electrified, and mouth wide open.

“I thought, ‘Oh No! That’s how I look when I am raving over the house not being clean?’”

She decided right there to make some changes in herself. Noticing when we need to make changes in ourselves is a fine quality.

Another of her admirable qualities is putting people together, and being an unofficial welcome wagon to newcomers as part of her people passion.

When Artie and JoAnn Kane first moved here, Arnold took them under her wing and introduced them to many community folks.

“She invited me to join the ‘B’ girls,” said JoAnn Kane, referring to the diverse group of fun ladies that had season ballet tickets.

“Integrity and generosity best describe Charlene. As a community leader or friend, she personifies the generous spirit,” Kane said.

“She’s a fine real estate broker, where both the seller and buyer often feel confident and secure and well cared for with her as their agent. All this, and she is full of laughs, too.”

Arnold wants all to know that anyone is welcome to swing by anytime. She doesn’t view people dropping in as an interruption; her passion for people never ceases. Her motivation in this world is people, their joy, their needs, wants and stories.

Caring for and about people is what Arnold lives for.

She folds her hands, and accentuates, “I sincerely want to be the house by the side of the road.”

What she’s referring to is the poem by Walter Foss, she recites a portion of it”

Let me live by the side of the road.

Where the race of men go by — The men who are bad.

As good and as bad as I.

I would not sit in the scorner’s seat.

Or hurt the cynic’s ban.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road.

And be a friend to man.

Community Events, April 2014

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