Billionaire Arthur Blank ups gifts for wellness, suicide prevention
Johnathan Hettinger —
Friday, November 30, 2018
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Enterprise photos by Nate Howard

Two chairs overlook the West Creek Ranch on July 3. The ranch, owned by billionaire Arthur Blank, is being used as a gathering place for nonprofits.

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AMB West Community Fund Program Director Tawnya Rupe is pictured at the West Creek Ranch on July 3.

Billionaire Arthur Blank will be upping his philanthropy in Park County to help address youth suicide and health and wellness.

Blank, the owner of Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, has awarded more than $4.6 million through the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch Fund since it was established in 2001, mostly in Park and Gallatin counties. Blank, co-founder of Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons, has a net worth of $4.6 billion, according to Forbes.

Earlier this year, Blank opened the West Creek Ranch, neighboring the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, as a new retreat center and meeting place for nonprofit groups to use the space to help people, solve problems and appreciate the beauty of Montana.

With the addition of West Creek, the fund has been renamed as the AMB West Community Fund.

The fund focuses its grants in specific giving areas. With the name change, the fund has two new areas: youth suicide prevention, and happiness and health through wellness. That’s on top of two areas that already existed: early childhood development, and youth empowerment and development.

That also comes with more money, said Program Director Tawnya Rupe.

“It’s an increase to reflect his passion for our priority areas,” Rupe said.

Those two new areas work together, said Natalie Gilbert, wellness director for the fund. She said that increasing happiness and health through wellness is a positive program that can give funds to help integrate wellness programs to places that provide mental health services, schools and family counseling. That includes helping people develop positive habits.

With 55 suicides in Park County between 2007 and 2016, the county had the 28th highest rate of any county in the United States. The state of Montana is first overall in suicide rate and fourth in youth suicide rate.

In the past 10 years, overall suicide rates increased by 26 percent in Montana and 36 percent in Park County.

The giving is driven by associates at Blank’s properties, meaning the employees who live in this community decide how the money is given out. Rupe said she has had many meetings in Livingston to discuss where the need is the highest.

This summer, West Creek focused largely on nonprofits, though it is also used by businesses that Blank has a relationship with. This fall, the ranch hosted meetings about local issues, including youth suicide and the Upper Yellowstone watershed, and it hosted a meeting on behalf of the Park County Community Foundation’s new community visioning project.

Rupe said the youth suicide meeting, which included more than 40 community members, helped inform the decision to fund youth suicide prevention efforts.

Rupe said the fund benefits because the community has so many active nonprofit groups.

The fund is having grant workshops for interested nonprofits next week. The Health and Happiness workshop will be at 4 p.m. Monday at the Shane Center. The Youth Suicide Prevention workshop will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the center.