Arthur Blank was only 15 when his father, Max, who was struggling financially to build a mail order pharmaceutical business in New York City, died suddenly. His mother, Molly, who had eloped at 18, to marry and raise her two sons, decided to take over the business.
With his father gone and his mother spending long hours learning to be a businesswoman, Blank and his brother Michael often found themselves coming home from Stuyvesant High in Queens to a darkened and empty one bedroom apartment. That’s when Molly decided to get them a dog. Blank remembers it changed everything.
“After my father passed, the dog, in some ways filled that void for my brother and myself and even for my mother. It made such a difference to have an animal that we could love and would love us. And who was so excited each day to see us when we came home.”
Those years helped to sharped Arthur’s ambition and drive. He went on to earn an accounting degree at Babson College outside Boston and begin a career in corporate finance that eventually led him to become co-founder of The Home Depot in 1978. Last December when the Atlanta Humane Society was raising money to build a new headquarters on the Westside, Blank remembered the dog that had meant so much to him at such a difficult time in his life.
His family foundation gave the organization $4 million to build the Arthur M. Blank Family Animal Center. It’s a modern two-story building on a five-acre site that probably would not have come together as it did without Blank’s support. According to Cal Morgan, the president and CEO of the Humane Society, Blank and his family spent considerable time working out the details of their gift.
“Arthur spent a lot of time with his family talking about this gift. They huddled at their ranch property in Montana as a family as they talked about doing this. His children and grandchildren are also big animal lovers. So, it was a real family thing for them.”
What the Humane Society, which is a no-kill animal shelter, created with Blank’s full support was not only one of the country’s most modern animal adoption centers, but it has veterinary surgical facilities to treat animals needing specialized care and treatment.
Morgan says the Society has spent years envisioning what the future of animal welfare should look like, and he believes they have created one of the most sophisticated veterinary medical centers in this part of the country. Blank gets much of the credit for helping to make the Humane Society’s dreams come true.
“Mr. Blank’s commitment was the key,” Morgan says. “That was the rocket fuel that we needed to really propel the campaign to success. Our original goal was to raise $10 million to supplement the money we received from selling our old building. But we were able with his gift to leverage other givers. We actually exceeded our campaign, and we ended up raising $11.5 million.”
In recent years, particularly during the height of the pandemic there was a sharp rise in animal adoptions. Kennels like the ones at the Humane Society were emptied, as individuals and families craved the love and companionship that an animal offered. To keep those adoptions from being given back, the Society has opened a low-cost veterinary clinic in the East Lake neighborhood of Atlanta.
Through the Meals on Wheels program, it offers pet food deliveries to accompany the meals that are delivered to those in need. There’s even an animal behavioral advice line and a clinic for those who are having problems with their new adoptions. It’s all part of the Humane Society’s attempt to make itself an even more open and receptive part of the community. There’s a big red heart outside their building, and according to the Morgan it’s there to say welcome.
“We’ve got walking trails on our property, we’ve got green space., We’re encouraging people to come and visit, bring their dog for a walk, interact with other people and their animals, come inside and take a look at the center,” he said.
Which is all good news to Blank who today has a new puppy and two golden retrievers to come home to. One is named Maia, from the Greek for Max, whose death 65 years ago changed his life. The other is Molly, named after his mother who bought that first dog so long ago and made opening the front door such a pleasure.
“There is always so much joy when I come home.” Blank says. “No matter what my mood is, whether we win a game or lose, they’re always happy.”