Arthur Blank’s Spirit of Giving Knows No Season
Paradise Valley Pop Stand Owner and Home Depot Co-Founder Makes More to Give More
BY PAT HILL
Home Depot co-founder and part-time Montana resident Arthur Blank might be described as a multi-faceted billionaire whose assets range from the Atlanta Falcons to the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, and to the Paradise Valley Pop Stand and Grill near Livingston, but his philanthropic attitude regarding his wealth means his spirit of giving extends well beyond the holiday season every year.
Blank’s association with Southwest Montana began with some downtime for a man known for keeping busy. Blank and his family began traveling to Montana for vacations at Paradise Valley’s Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in the 1990s, according to ranch spokesperson Tanya Rupe.
"Friends of theirs recommended the ranch," Rupe told the Pioneer. "After coming out for several years, they purchased the ranch in 2001." Blank also retired as co-chairman of Home Depot (which he co-founded in 1978) that year, and Rupe said that Blank and his family began to spend more and more time at the ranch.
"They're here for the majority of the summer," said Rupe. "And they do a lot for the community." Blank and his wife Stephanie are known for their charitable work. They created The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation in 1995, with a stated mission "focused on enhancing education, preserving greenspace, sustaining the arts and sparking collaboration among its community partners."
Over $250 million has been granted to various charitable organiza-tions through the Family Foundation. The Mountain Sky Guest Ranch Fund Community Grants Program, directed by Rupe, and affiliated with the Family Foundation, was created as an arena for giving back to the Blank family's new community. That program focuses on youth, environment and quality of life in Park and Gallatin Counties.
"We're getting close to the $2 million mark in terms of giving back to the community here," said Rupe. She said that Blank is very skilled regarding "sparking collaboration among commun-ity partners," and that goes for Southwest Montana as well.
"He's really got the ability to convince wealthier neighbors of the importance of giving back to the community," said Rupe. "Because of the Foundation there's more going on here now. I think he and his staff have added another realm to giving."
Blank entered a very personal realm of giving regarding one Liv-ingston area family a few years back. When Blank and his family ventured into Livingston from the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, they often stopped at the Paradise Valley Pop Stand for a visit and a snack, and got to know the owners of the establishment, Kent and Sandra Blough. After the Blough's son Corey was injured in an automobile accident some years ago, hospital and doctor bills began to add up, and the family put their little restaurant up for sale. The Pop Stand's current general manager, Denise Sarrazin, told the Pioneer that although she couldn't provide any firm numbers regarding the deal, it was Blank that ended up buying the Pop Stand from the Bloughs, and paying the family more than the asking price for the establishment.
"That's just the guy he is," Sarrazin said of Blank's generosity. "He gives large amounts of money in the area." Blank helped provide a little more than cash when the Livingston midget football teams were refitted with new jerseys and equipment earlier this year. Both the light and heavyweight divisions of the team were renamed the Livingston Falcons, after the Atlanta NFL team Blank purchased in 2002.
"Given our affiliation with the Atlanta Falcons, all of us at the Pop Stand just couldn't see any other name but the Falcons on our local teams' jerseys," Sarrazin said in a press release. Atlanta defensive end Kroy Biermann, who hails from Hardin, Montana, and played college football for the University of Montana Grizzlies, provided the cash for game-day jerseys with the new Falcons logo; Blank's Atlanta Falcons community relations team came through with practice jerseys.
"I'm proud to represent Montana in the NFL," Biermann said in the same release. "This was an oppor-tunity for me to give back to a community in my native state and to tie it together with football and getting kids active, two things I'm passionate about."
Football does provide Blank with a great opportunity to give, and kids are a main focus for him; one of his Blank Family Foundation charities is called the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation.
"We don't see [Blank] much during football season, but he's here all summer," said Sarrazin. "[Blank's] wife works at the Pop Stand in the summer, waiting tables with us once a week. We really enjoy our time with Stephanie." She added that Blank's daughter Danielle lives in Montana all year, working for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition in Bozeman.
Sarrazin said that Blank keeps busy during those summer months with his charitable work, and she agrees with Rupe regarding Blank's ability to convince people with more to give to people with less.
"They are incredible people," Sarrazin said. "They give large amounts of money in the area and more. The attitude that comes across is to make more money so we can give more money."