Blumenthals lead by example in giving

BY STEVE DINNEN

Don and Margo Blumenthal are what you might call activist philanthropists. When they see a problem or an opportunity, often involving children or animals, they craft a solution. 

Consider:

  • Dogs: In a program funded by the West Des Moines couple, select dogs from the Animal Rescue League of Iowa are sent to correctional facilities in Iowa and trained by inmates to be good, dependable pets. They then are given to veterans who might find some comfort in having them by their side—“a therapy program,”  Don says.

 

  • Giraffes: Herds of them piqued the Blumenthals’ interest during an African safari. Back home, they became lead contributors to a $2.2 million enclosure at Blank Park Zoo that provides warmth for the winter-averse giraffes. It opens to the public Dec. 26.

 

  • Children: The Blumenthal Crisis Nursery at Youth Emergency Services & Shelter is Iowa’s only site-based, 24-hour emergency shelter for newborns, toddlers and young children. Likewise funded by the Blumenthals (Don is a longtime member of the YESS board), it “provides a temporary haven from the trouble and uncertainty in their lives.” 


The list goes on and on about the charitable efforts of the Blumenthals: Variety Club, United Way, March of Dimes and Big Brothers Big Sisters, to name a few. For Don, this philanthropic spirit formed as he watched his father, Joe, open his wallet, mainly for religious causes. As Don grew up in—and grew—the family business (metal recycling and steel service center and later environmental resources), he started giving himself and cast a wider net into social services. He said he prefers such causes over health care and education, and he seeks to get involved beyond writing a check.

“I want to see what I’m giving to,” he said. 

The late Des Moines businessman Marvin Pomerantz helped Don chart his charitable path, he says. Known as a big giver, Pomerantz would “lean on everybody” for charitable causes—asking friends and business associates to always, as Don recalled Pomerantz saying, “give a little more.”

Don is still heeding that advice. One of the funding sources for his charitable works is a sizable investment portfolio that he built up in an IRA. He plans to spend all of that account on worthwhile causes. He wasn’t looking forward to the tax bite on annual donations above a certain level, but recently figured out how to minimize that. 

So the IRS sort of loses. But Des Moines definitely wins. And so do Don and Margo Blumenthal.

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