By NewsLine Staff

On Saturday, April 1, Mandarin Museum & Historical Society honored two of its longtime, dedicated volunteers at its Volunteer Appreciation Reception. Hosted on the museum’s front lawn, more than 50 people were in attendance to celebrate the thousands of hours volunteers contribute each year in support of the museum’s operations, programming, events, and archives. Special honorees included Donald Bowden and Sandy Arpen. 

Bowden, also known in the area as “Frogman,” was recognized with an official resolution from the City of Jacksonville. A life-long resident of Mandarin, Bowden’s family roots in the community date to the late 18th century. After retiring from a successful career in the well and pump business, he found a unique way to give back — making and painting concrete frogs and placing them along the rural roads in Mandarin to make people smile. In 2015, Bowden began making frogs to sell to benefit the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society and its renovation and restoration of the historic St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African-American Children. The frogs became so popular, a must in every Mandarin yard, that he has created and sold more than 10,000 frogs, adding sea turtles and squirrels in recent years. Refusing any compensation for his time and materials, Bowden has raised more than $150,000 in support of the museum and its mission and programs, including an expansion of the Mandarin Museum building owned by the City of Jacksonville.

Since 2011, Arpen has led the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society as its volunteer executive director. Under her leadership, the organization has meaningfully preserved and shared Mandarin’s history, culture, and natural resources. Major accomplishments include saving, restoring, and moving the St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse for African American Children to Walter Jones Historical Park, launching a successful capital campaign to fund the expansion and renovation of Mandarin Museum’s exhibit galleries and archives, and overseeing the initial phases of the project. In addition, Arpen managed the museum’s operations, facilities, archives, tours, outreach, and marketing.

The board of directors, along with newly-hired Executive Director Brittany Cohill and Volunteer Coordinator Paula Suhey, presented Arpen with a custom printed and framed Olis Garber original photograph of Mandarin’s oak canopy over Brady Road — her favorite in Garber’s Mandarin series. Messages of gratitude were inscribed on the back from museum friends and family. Another uniquely Mandarin gift to Arpen was a surprise performance from Music Under the Oaks musician Eric Arndt.

Arpen will remain a volunteer with the Mandarin Museum, but in her words, “Now I get to just focus on the fun stuff!”

Photo courtesy Olis Garber
Sandy Arpen was presented with a custom printed and framed Olis Garber photograph.

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