Community Heroes: La Jollans give much in the name of family and faith

La Jolla residents Lisa and Ben Arnold and their children, Aaron and Ava
La Jolla residents Lisa and Ben Arnold, pictured with their children, Aaron and Ava, are heavily involved in philanthropy and community service.
(Robin L. Wood)

In Lisa Arnold’s household, philanthropy and community service are intertwined with faith and family.


For La Jolla resident Lisa Arnold, philanthropy and community service are intertwined with faith and family.

Arnold is vice chairwoman of the Sharp HealthCare Foundation and chair of its stewardship committee. She also serves on the Parent Advisory Board of the University of San Diego.

Community service is a household mantra: Arnold’s husband, Ben, is on the advisory board for USD’s Burnham-Moores Real Estate Center and on the board of Congregation Beth-El.

Together, the Arnolds, who are parents of college-age Ava and teenager Aaron, have donated much to local organizations through their foundation, the Lisa & Ben Arnold Family Tzedakah Fund.

“My hope is really that we are good stewards of all that we are blessed with. This is how we fix the world.”

— Lisa Arnold

The Arnolds’ drive to give originated when Aaron, now 16, was born eight weeks premature when the family lived in South Carolina.

Aaron spent four weeks in the hospital’s newborn intensive care unit. The Arnolds visited him daily, but the length of the visits was hampered by the NICU’s design.

The challenge prompted Lisa Arnold to join the hospital’s board of directors and launch a women’s leadership board. The family also made a significant donation to the NICU’s redevelopment.

In addition, the Arnolds issued a challenge gift for the local children’s hospital, matching every donation made up to $500,000. The campaign raised a total of $1.2 million.

“We don’t ever know what’s in our backyard until we need it,” Lisa Arnold said. “I wanted to make sure that what I had was not only there for the next person but that it could be better for the next person.”

The Arnolds’ philanthropy continued once the family moved to La Jolla six years ago and became involved with the Sharp HealthCare Foundation and the Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns. They volunteered and donated, including $250,000 for the Sharp Mary Birch Neonatal Research Institute and the Nemeth NICU Follow-up Clinic.

The Arnolds also helped launch the 10-year “Envision: The Campaign for Sharp HealthCare” with a $1 million gift for the Sharp Prebys Innovation and Education Center, planned to open in the spring.

In La Jolla, Arnold and her family bought meals from Piazza 1909 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and donated them to emergency room staff to help overworked health care providers and the struggling restaurant.

Arnold said her efforts follow the Jewish concept of “tikkun olam,” often translated as “repair the world.”

Donations to charity are part of “tikkun olam,” Arnold said, “but the other part of it is action. It’s a call to make the world a better place.”

“Whether that’s through philanthropy [or] good deeds, it’s doing your part to really make the world a better place,” she said.

Arnold said she hopes “each person brings to the table whatever they can do to help others,” whether it’s a financial contribution, mentoring a young person, volunteering or some other service.

She said she often tells her children that “stewardship is recognizing blessings and managing them well.”

Blessings can be anything — from Earth to friendships to money, she said.

“My hope is really that we are good stewards of all that we are blessed with. This is how we fix the world.”

Community Heroes logo
(Daniel K. Lew)

The La Jolla Light’s Community Heroes series for the holiday period highlights people who aren’t often in the news but make a difference in the lives of others. If you know such a person, email Editor Rob Vardon at Please limit suggestions to people who live or work in La Jolla or otherwise have strong ties to the community.