For 20 years, Arnold and Stephanie Siegel have led two lives, one as big city professionals in Southern California and the other as arts boosters and community builders in the rural reaches of West Yellowstone.
For the latter role, the Siegels — Arne and Stephie —- have been honored by the West Yellowstone Foundation, with the non-profit organization's highest award, the "Legacy of Gold."
The foundation, founded in 1992, has provided over $172,000 in funding community programs and activities. It manages a permanent endowment worth more than $300,000.
The Siegels were toasted at a banquet in their honor for their fund-raising efforts and creative energy in distributing and helping allocate monies to arts and cultural programs, education, historic preservation, nature and conservation causes and bolstering the economy of the West Yellowstone Foundation chairman Tom Atkins, "Simply put, we gather funds. Then we give them away."
The Siegels' philanthropic work in West Yellowstone includes a host of activities and responsibilities, Atkins said, including long term involvement in the recent reopening of West Yellowstone's Museum of the Yellowstone.
According to the foundation's Maryjean Vaessen, "The Siegels are visionary people, not afraid to become involved."
Working as volunteers, the Siegels say they've gotten back more than they have given.
They enjoy their role as catalyst in raising funds, challenging others.
Youth programs are a big part of the foundation's effort, including an after-school program targeting low income children whose parents are working when the children get out of school.
That project particularly appealed to Stephanie, who has been a counselor for years.
Other worthy causes aided by the Siegels through the Foundation are the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, Volunteer Fire Services, a mentoring program, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks.
The award is full-circle for the Siegels, who broke ground when they established the West Yellowstone Foundation, the first affiliate of the Montana Community Foundation, the umbrella agency.
Since then, there more than 50 other affiliates have been added to the MCF system, with West Yellowstone's the first.
The Siegels' love affair with Montana began many years ago. "I was 6 when I first visited and was smitten," says Arne, an Ohio native.
Since marrying, they have divided their time between Montana and the Los Angeles area for more than 20 years.
Arne is in the automotive accident and injury analysis business. Stephanie's background is art education and English and after obtaining a doctorate in clinical psychology she founded a private practice.
Their philanthropic endeavors in the Los Angeles area were a natural segue to parallel interests in Montana, says Jack Nickels Jr., of Billings, longtime friend and professional colleague of the Siegels through the Montana Community Foundation.
"They took their zest for making a more liveable city and just transposed it to the challenges of living in the West," says Nickels.
The Siegels spend part of the summer and several other weeks a year in Montana.
They were recently here to attend a Foundation meeting and accept their honor.
The Foundation's next goal is to build a high school scholarship endowment to provide scholarship help for high school graduates.
On hand to congratulate the Siegels were members of the board of the Montana Community Foundation, which has close to $40 million in its trust.
Outgoing board chairman Tom Elliot of Livingston thanked the Siegels for their gifts of time, talent and money to West Yellowstone and Montana.
"It's because of the Siegels and people like them that Montanans are deciding their own future, planting seeds to make things happen, hoping for a harvest in the future to benefit all Montanans."
The Montana Community Foundation has over 400 member organizations and trusts. Without the Siegels, Vaessen says, "there would be no West Yellowstone Foundation."