The more we give, the less we have. Certainly, there is something refreshing about unburdening ourselves. But if the love of money is the root of evil, then perhaps the more we give, the richer we become.
Frank Dixon is both an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. He spent the first half of his life making money. He has spent the second half of it giving it away.
If you ask Dixon which is more important, he’ll relay a story about dimes and a poor box.
“It came from my mother,” said Dixon, during an exclusive interview with LebTown. “She was a waitress at John Wanamaker’s Crystal Tea Room (in Philadelphia). She worked very hard for dimes and quarters. She worked hard all day long and she worked weekends.”
Dixon drew lessons from his mother’s own commitment to philanthropy regardless of her personal means.
“On Sundays, she would go to church and put a dime in the poor box,” continued Dixon. “A dime was a lot of money back then and we were poor. I would question her on it, and she told me, ‘Son, you get back ten times what you give in life.’ Now, I never saw a dollar come out the bottom of a poor box. I’ve never gotten back ten times what I’ve given, but ten times ten times ten what I’ve given. The reason I give money to charity is that it’s such a good deal.”
There are few local residents who have donated more money to local charitable causes and organizations over the last 40 years than Dixon.
Dixon, 92, is the founder of the Dixon Foundation and a now retired member of the foundation’s board. Through cooperation with other local non-profits like The United Way of Lebanon County, Lebanon County Christian Ministries and the Salvation Army, the Dixon Foundation, which is headquartered at Fourth and Cumberland Streets downtown, seeks to enhance the quality of life for Lebanon County residents through healthcare and education.
“That means whether you’re a pauper or a multi-millionaire, if you have a stroke, we want to have a high-quality facility in Lebanon where you can be treated,” said Dixon. “It’s for citizens of Lebanon County in need, and all people are in need at some time or another. A lot of thought is given to what we do and how we do it. There are also some things we do not fund.”
“It’s important to me because of what I’ve established with the people around me,” added Dixon. “It’s big-time stuff. The Dixon Foundation is generational and we’ve helped many people in need over the years. But we don’t brag about how much we’re worth. I’ve also done things to compound the foundation’s net worth.”
While Dixon’s philanthropic efforts have intensified as he’s matured, that spirit of giving was formed from his mother’s dimes into the poor box.
Dixon founded the Dixon Foundation in 1989, and the foundation was instrumental in bringing Harrisburg Area Community College to Lebanon. Since then, the Dixon Foundation has provided more than 4,000 assistance grants to students at HACC’s Lebanon campus.
“My family and I were eating lunch together on a Sunday,” said Dixon. “My children were all of age and not living around here. I asked them, ‘What do I need to do so we can get together a couple of times a year?’ We came up with the idea of forming a charitable organization, and it was decided that we were going to donate $100 per day to charity. Then we promised to get together a couple of times a year to discuss it.
“I’ve always believed what my mother said, ‘Give. Be a giver, not a taker,” Dixon added. “It’s much more fun. That dime was bigger to her than $20,000 I could put into something.”
After working as a salesman and a general manager of a chain of stores, Dixon went into business for himself and started a recycling center in Lebanon in the early 1970s. He grew the business into six additional locations, before selling it in 2008.
“That was an era when recycling was becoming big, and there happened to be a scrap yard available in town,” said Dixon. “It sounded interesting, so I became the owner of one. I was in the scrap business for 35 years. I’ve always been insecure, so therefore, I’ve had to work harder. I’m 92-years-old and I still go to work every day, and I will until the day I die.
“I’ve had more failures in my life,” added Dixon. “But I’ve always asked myself one question – and it doesn’t have to pertain to just business – ‘What happens if what I’m going to do is a failure? Could it possibly lead to bankruptcy or a change in lifestyle or divorce or cause me to lose the respect of my children?’ I’ve made mistakes, but none that have led to bankruptcy.”
Dixon was born at the time of The Great Depression, and after growing up ‘poor’ in Philadelphia, he achieved the notable accomplishment of being discharged from, first the United States Navy, and then the United States Army. Originally, his regional sales job with Proctor and Gamble introduced Dixon to Lebanon, and later he was hired as the president of the Keystone Center chain of discount stores.
“That’s why I came to Lebanon, for an opportunity,” said Dixon, a resident of Cornwall. “Until I bought the recycling center, I was never in a position to own my own business. I had a young family of two and needed a job.
“Philadelphia is my hometown,” continued Dixon. “But Lebanon means everything to me. I’ve been here for 55 years now. When I came to town, I was a hard-working guy who needed a job. Lebanon and I have gotten along well together. I love it.”
His legacy is important to Dixon. Not so much what people think of him, but how he’s made Lebanon a better place to live. Ultimately, a man is judged by his actions.
“What’s important is what I can leave to a life that’s been so good to me,” said Dixon. “I’m anxious to do what I can for the citizens of Lebanon County, who have been so good to me. I’ve had many business dealings outside of the area, but Lebanon has been the catalyst. That’s where I want my successors to do what I want. I am so thankful for the unbelievable things that have happened in my life.”
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