By Susan D. Brandenburg

Born in Ohio, Sandy Arpen was in seventh grade when her dad, the late William Heiss, was transferred to the Jacksonville office of American Motors. She has lived in three different homes in Mandarin since 1961.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Arpen became a nurse. She earned her Master’s degree in Psychiatric Nursing at the University of Florida and then worked for more than 26 years as an educator, trainer and associate director of the non-profit Childbirth Education Association of Jacksonville. In 1995, Governor Lawton Chiles presented her with the Annual Achievement Award of the Florida Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition.

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Since retiring in 2009, Arpen has continued to dedicate her experience, passion and volunteer spirit to enhancing the quality of life for the citizens of Mandarin and beyond. She has served as president of the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society since 2011 and in 2015, received the “Miss Aggie” Award, which annually honors “a female resident who has contributed to the Mandarin community in the areas of business, civic, education or charitable accomplishment.”

She has been married for 46 years to husband Tracey Arpen and their children, Matthew and Kate, grew up in Mandarin. She is now the grandmother of Gracie Belle, Elias and William.

How did you become involved with the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society?

My husband, Tracey, and I were Charter Members of the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society and for years volunteered occasionally for special events and as docents. Once I retired, I began to volunteer more, working with the museum’s collections. In 2011, when I became president, we faced the challenge of no funding and no paid staff, but with a love for our local history, deep roots in the Mandarin community (Tracey was born and raised here), and especially, our great volunteers, we’ve been able to grow and thrive.

Have you always been an active volunteer?

Yes. At Loretto School I organized a Girl Scout troop in kindergarten and led it through ninth grade. I have served as a board member of the University Hospital (now UF Health) Auxiliary, Mandarin High School Band Boosters and North Florida Folk Network, and on the Church Council of Mandarin Lutheran Church. We are long-time members of the Mandarin Community Club. When our kids were growing up, our whole family worked the annual Art Festival.

The Mandarin Museum & Historical Society’s mission is to share the stories of Mandarin’s history, culture and natural resources by providing engaging programs that educate, entertain and inspire. What is its most recent accomplishment?

Our most recent accomplishment was the grand opening of the St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children in April. More than 400 people attended the celebration. Due to the leadership of the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society and support from various community organizations and individuals, we raised funds to relocate the building from a private residence three miles away, restore and preserve it and open it as a museum with interpretive exhibits. The Mandarin Community Club purchased the building in honor of the club’s 90th anniversary, gifting it to the City of Jacksonville for placement in Walter Jones Historical Park

Do you need help from Mandarin residents at the museum?  

We are always seeking new volunteers to help with our many vital programs and activities that we have dubbed “The Mandarin Experience.” Please encourage your readers to call (904) 268-0784 or visit

Photo courtesy Olis Garber (

Sandy Arpen

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