Montana Living Profile: Arthur M. Blank Foundation
Retreat center offers Montana nonprofit organizations a place to incubate ideas, support youth
A Georgia-based foundation is building on its 17 years of philanthropy in Montana with new grant-making and programming to its portfolio of charitable activities.
The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and AMB West Philanthropies encompasses West Creek Ranch, AMB West Community Fund, AMB West Conservation, AMB West Base Camp and AMB West Challenge Course.
One of the new philanthropic efforts is West Creek Ranch, a working ranch newly transformed into a retreat center. Since purchasing West Creek Ranch in 2017, Blank has created an inspired space where select nonprofit organizations can come to address issues of national significance, incubate ideas and turn them into action. Offered by invitation-only to select nonprofit organizations, business partners and associates of The Blank Family of Businesses, West Creek provides the perfect setting for meetings, leadership development, social gatherings, recreation and inspiration, at no cost to participants.
Recent groups to use West Creek include The Warrior Alliance, Anti-Defamation League, The Giving Kitchen, Blue Sky Funders, Leadership Montana and Montana Community Foundation.
"My family fell in love with Montana when we first began coming here more than 20 years ago,” foundation chairman Arthur Blank said. “When you’re outdoors in this rich physical beauty where the world slows down, you can take a moment to reflect on what’s really important to you personally."
"For me, that’s enriching the lives of the people we serve in our businesses and the communities around us. By increasing our philanthropy in Montana, I’m hopeful we can make an impact where the needs are greatest.”
A long-standing pillar of philanthropy in Montana, the AMB West Community Fund, led by a group of associates at Mountain Sky Guest Ranch and West Creek Ranch, has invested more than $4.6 million in grants to nonprofits in Montana's Park and Gallatin counties.
The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation in May 2019 awarded 32 grants totaling $1.1 million to nonprofits in Montana, the majority in Park and Gallatin counties. One of the foundation's major new program areas is youth suicide prevention, with grants provided in these areas:
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Gallatin, Park, and Sweet Grass counties: $250,000 over three years for the Suicide Prevention through Mentorship Project;
MSU Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery: $25,000 challenge grant for development and evaluation of an evidence-based internet cognitive behavior therapy (iCBT) program to reduce suicidal risk factors for Montana adolescent;
RISE Up Montana: $96,000 over three years to provide crisis response and mental health support for Park County students and families.
WELLNESS GRANTS IN MONTANA
In addition, the Blank family foundations provided wellness grants, including a three-year, $283,500 grant to Community Health Partners and Park County Health Department for Babies Plus and expansion of the Connect Referral Network. Babies Plus is a collaboration that delivers home-visiting services to families.
Montana’s youth suicide rate is one of the highest in the country, and the Fund seeks proposals for programmatic or policy innovations that will contribute to a sustained, long-term reduction in youth suicide in Park County, where Mountain Sky Guest Ranch and West Creek Ranch are located. Additionally, recognizing that lifestyle changes can yield dramatic positive results for the mind and body, the Fund will consider proposals integrating wellness programs, with a special interest in creative approaches that mix wellness programming with outdoor immersions in local natural settings. (More details and information on how to apply for a grant can be found here.)
AMB West Philanthropies said it will continue its conservation efforts, which are committed to protecting the natural resources of Paradise Valley for generations to come.
The foundation said investment priorities are focused on the conservation and responsible management of the Upper Yellowstone watershed, including scientific data management, preserving and improving the health of the watershed and conserving and protecting natural resources. Conservation grants are made on an invitation-only basis; more details are available here.
AMB West Basecamp provides a rustic campus for nonprofits to develop and operate youth-based, outdoor leadership and natural resource conservation programs. The Basecamp is offered free of charge to youth-serving nonprofits.
The AMB West Challenge Course is a state-of-the-art ropes course with high and low ropes elements designed to create shared experiences among diverse groups. From high adventure to intentional facilitation, the nine high ropes elements, four low ropes elements, and well-versed staff can customize programming for Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, West Creek Ranch and nonprofit organizations operating youth-based, outdoor leadership and natural resource conservation groups.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our associate staff and the work that they’re doing," Arthur Blank said. "They listen to the needs of the community and respond to them. The AMB West Community Fund also gives our associates an opportunity to have that wonderful feeling of giving back and making a difference in other people’s lives.”