Superhero films are box-office gold. Moviegoers are drawn to the action, adventure and special effects. But there is also something very American about our superhero stories. We embrace the idea of apparently ordinary citizens leading double lives. Newspaper reporters who help the helpless in their spare time bring smiles and cheers. We long to live in a world populated with heroes are dedicated to doing good. Well, guess what—we do. Everyday heroes are all around us in Edina. Maybe you’re one of them, teaching Sunday school, knitting caps for newborns, shoveling snow off your neighbor’s driveway.
Maybe you’re a lot like Dan Arom, who leads the double life of a superhero. Arom is director of operations for Concord, Inc., a local IT company. But he is also a dedicated community volunteer. Arom has lived in Edina for 24 years and is a 1990 graduate of Edina High School. His volunteer work dates back to various school-based service projects and has continued through community organizations and coaching youth sports. But Arom’s dedication to serving others took on an even more personal and special meaning 10 years after he graduated from Edina High School.
A friend and classmate of Arom’s, Spenser Somers, had died in 1990 from a rare form of cancer. He was 18 years old. In 2000, Arom and a group of Edina High School graduates started a foundation to honor Somers’ memory. The Spenser Somers Foundation was established on November 9, 2000, exactly 10 years after Somers passed away. The mission of the foundation is to support organizations that help children live with cancer and to provide patients’ families with financial support to help pay non-covered expenses during and after hospital visits.
Arom and a few friends associated with the Spenser Somers Foundation do more than raise money for those in need. They also meet several times a year to serve meals for guests of Loaves and Fishes at the Creekside Community Center in Bloomington.
Loaves and Fishes serves dinner Monday through Friday to anyone who wants or needs a meal, without any application or questions asked. On their appointed nights, Arom’s group is responsible for purchasing, preparing and serving dinner to approximately 200 guests. Over the past seven years, Arom estimates he’s helped feed close to 15,000 people.
Kathy Tominski of Loaves and Fishes mentions Arom’s beautiful family. That’s right: Arom also brings his family along several times a year to prepare and serve meals for guests of Loaves and Fishes.
“It didn’t take much encouragement to get our kids involved,” says Arom. “If you expose kids to service opportunities, joy seems to follow naturally.” Kristin Codding of Edina says Arom has a gift for bringing people together and inspiring young people to value volunteer work.
Tominski adds that Arom even put together a team of colleagues from Concord to serve meals at Loaves and Fishes every other month. “Dan is willing to help in most any way,” says Tominski. “Once we were short a team to help serve food and we called Dan. His team couldn’t serve that night but they offered to buy all the food for the meals.”
On another occasion, it came to Arom’s attention that a guest at Loaves and Fishes had a problem with hoarding. He put a team of volunteers together and helped the woman clean out her home.
“I’m getting up in years,” Tominski says. “But I don’t want to quit my job at Loaves and Fishes because I get to work with wonderful people like Dan.”
In 2009, Kurt Vickman, another childhood friend of Arom’s, approached him about helping launch a new concept food shelf in Minneapolis. “I had this idea,” says Vickman. “I wanted to create a food distribution facility where families are given the opportunity to choose their own food in a dignified way, more like a grocery store.”
Vickman credits Arom as an integral part of the success of Minneapolis Market, doing whatever was needed to get the organization up and running. Arom volunteered as a shift leader, leading a team of volunteers in the market once a month. He now serves on the board of directors and helps provide financial oversight.
“The guy has an amazing heart for those who are often forgotten,” says Vickman. “He works full time and is raising a family. Yet he still makes time to volunteer.” Vickman thinks it’s rare to come across someone like Arom, who leads such a busy life but still takes time to give back to the community.
Maybe you know someone like Arom. Or maybe you are like him, quietly leading the double life of a superhero. To Arom and those like him, we say thank you for giving the world real-life heroes to cheer for.