KAUKAUNA — Dave Arnoldussen grew up working with his hands, his father having passed along years of carpentry experience.
Today, Arnoldussen is using his skills to help people far and wide through the Fox Valley Mission Group while passing down his own lessons to his family and community.
“It’s nice to see that what we’re doing is making a difference,” Arnoldussen said.
Arnoldussen grew up outside of Little Chute and attended St. John School before marrying his wife, Mary, in 1968. The pair moved to Kaukauna and had three sons, Dean, Adam and Nick. They became members of St. Katharine Drexel Parish.
In 1976, Arnoldussen started operating Arn’s Cabinets in Little Chute, utilizing the skills he learned from his father.
“My dad did carpentry work when I was growing up, so then I just followed in his footsteps,” Arnoldussen said. “He trained me. That’s the way it went.”
Twenty years later, a new opportunity arose with the forming of the Fox Valley Mission Group, which would take Arnoldussen nearly 3,500 miles from home and kick off annual volunteer work that continues to this day.
“Four of us were contacted to go to Nicaragua and help a priest with his house getting some electrical work done,” Arnoldussen said. “He wanted a generator so he could light his house and church. Every year after that they would contact us in early June or July and see if we wanted to come down and do some work. We have been doing that every year since.”
The Fox Valley Mission Group works locally and abroad, taking on one to two national or international service projects each year. The group has traveled to Honduras, Belize and Mexico as well as Louisiana and Mississippi to help with the rebuild after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The group’s main focus is Nicaragua. While there, the group helps to fix churches, schools and homes. Arnoldussen said Mary started going on the trip after a couple of years, and now they travel together around the country once the project is completed. The Arnoldussens even volunteer to help people as they make their way from town to town on their own time.
“Our main volunteering has always been Nicaragua, so every time when we come home, I start thinking about where we might want to go the next year,” said Arnoldussen, who also partook in the Christian Appalachian Project in Kentucky with his wife last year.
This year, the Fox Valley Mission Group did not get enough volunteers to travel to Kentucky, so it partnered with the Greater Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity in early October to refurbish the exterior of a Menasha home. Arnoldussen worked on the garage to prepare it for siding.
“It all worked out very well,” Arnoldussen said. “When the guys on the other jobs on the house would get caught up, they would come over to the garage and work on other projects. Everybody flows and works together. It’s a good group.”
The Fox Valley Mission Group is encouraging more volunteers to join its efforts. Arnoldussen joked that the original members are all in their 70s now and cannot take on the amount of work they once did.
“We need younger people,” Arnoldussen said. “That’s why this year my son and his two friends and my granddaughter are going (to Nicaragua), and a couple of years ago we had another young couple that went along. We need more, younger volunteers who want to spend the time with the group.”
Arnoldussen is proud that his children and grandchildren have followed in his footsteps by volunteering their time. Like his father taught him, Arnoldussen and Mary led by example, and now his family is using those lessons to continue helping others.
“It’s good to see that they know how to volunteer and put their time in for volunteering,” Arnoldussen said. “We’ve been talking about it to our granddaughter since she was little, and this summer we asked if she wanted to go, and she said ‘yeah.’”
The next trip to Nicaragua will take place in January. The two-week project is based on Corn Island off the coast of Nicaragua.
Arnoldussen said that, whether locally or thousands of miles away, the volunteer work one does for others is what counts. He hopes more people will help groups like the Fox Valley Mission Group.
“If it’s a domestic trip like in the states, you can’t go wrong by volunteering for something, because everybody is going to make it easy, and everybody is friendly and helpful,” Arnoldussen said. “No matter where you volunteer and no matter what you do, there’s a lot of volunteer organizations around the Fox Valley.”
Editor’s note: In January 2020, FVMG is planning a two-week project on Corn Island in Nicaragua. Volunteers will be making repairs to a school, convent and rectory. For information about the Nicaragua trip, contact Dave Arnoldussen at (920) 419-6530 or email [email protected]. Fox Valley Mission Group welcomes volunteers of all ages and skill levels. To learn more about the group, email project co-coordinators Marlene and Carl Boucher at [email protected] or call Carl at (920) 716-5292.
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Dave Arnoldussen
Parish: St. Katharine Drexel, Kaukauna
Favorite saint: Francis of Assisi
Words to live by: “Be truthful and honest.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]