The richest person in Tampa Bay is giving away millions

Ash Jurberg
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We all love to read articles about the richest people living in our city. But readers always want to know what these people do to give back to their local community. After all, if you have a billion-dollar fortune, you should look to help others.

Today, let's take a quick look at the richest person in Tampa Bay and what they do to assist charitable organizations.

The richest person in Tampa Bay

Ronald Wanek is the lucky person with the title of the richest person in the Tampa Bay area. Wanek is the founder of America's largest home furniture manufacturer and retailer, Ashley Furniture, and has a net worth of $5.2 billion.

It is a far cry from his humble upbringing. As a child, the home he lived in did not have electricity or running water, and when he was eight years old, Wanek began working on a farm earning just 25 cents per week.

His father taught him to make furniture, and in 1970 he used those skills, starting a furniture manufacturing business with a loan.

In 1976 he purchased Ashley Furniture, now the world's largest furniture manufacturing company with revenue of $6.6 billion a year, 1,000 employees, and 1,000 stores in 36 countries.


Ashley Furniture made Wanek a very wealthy man, but perhaps due to his humble upbringing, he decided to support others less fortunate.

In 1988, Wanek and his wife, Joyce, established the Ronald & Joyce Wanek Foundation to fund various charitable causes, including education, the arts, and medicine.

Some of their donations include:

  • A $50 million grant to The City of Hope to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes by 2023.
  • Tens of millions in donations to Mayo Clinic to assist their research efforts to cure heart disease. This cause is personal for Wanek as his grandaughter had a heart defect when she was born.
  • Additional grants to the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and other medical research organizations.
  • Millions of dollars in funds to assist local schools and universities and more than 1,000 scholarships in helping offset the escalating costs of higher education.
I understand the important role education plays in changing the trajectory of one's life, but I also know what it feels like to not be able to attend college due to rising costs,' Ronald Wanek

In 2017, Wanek received the Nido R. Qubein Philanthropist of the Year Award, which honors individuals who have made a significant contribution by being examples of philanthropy and stewardship. In addition, this year, he became a 2022 Horatio Alger Award Recipient for his perseverance, integrity, and commitment to excellence.

Readers, what do you think of Ronald Wanek's story? And what Tampa Bay organizations do you think he should support?

Please leave your comments below.

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