Eau Claire, WI

The Eau Claire couple giving away millions of dollars

Ash Jurberg

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In the hope of spreading good news to readers, I have been writing a series of articles on business leaders and entrepreneurs who have been giving back to the community.

Today I wanted to shine the spotlight on a couple from Eau Claire that have been supporting the local community.

Let's take a look at their story.

The Eau Claire couple giving away millions of dollars

John and Carolyn Sonnentag both studied at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. They married when they were students and lived in a small trailer, working part-time jobs to get through college. John worked as a bus driver while Carolyn worked at a local insurance office.

Once they graduated, they joined the family business selling concrete and landscape products. The couple transformed the business from just two employees to a company with over 2,000 employees and 50 plants across the country.

The business's success made the couple very wealthy, and they wanted to give back to Eau Claire.

The couple established the Sonnetag Foundation in 2007, which supports community programs and charitable organizations. They have donated over $1.1 million to 28 different charitable organizations, mainly in Wisconsin. Organizations they have supported include Big Brother, Big Sister, The Salvation Army, Compass For Kids, and Shelter House.

These donations have directly impacted over 150,000 people who benefit from these services and resources.

They have also donated $70 million to UW-Eau Claire to build a new events facility that will open in spring 2024. It will be the future home for UW-Eau Claire basketball and the largest public recreation facility in northwest Wisconsin.

Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that 100% of the philanthropy for a project would come from one donor. This has been a long and winding road over the past few years, but this incredible gift will improve the quality of life for all Blugolds and it will benefit Eau Claire and northwestern Wisconsin.” Kimera Way, president of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.
Carolyn and I feel that the UW-Eau Claire and Eau Claire communities have made such a great contribution to our lives that we want to give back in whatever capacity we can,” John Sonnentag

John Sonnetag also showed his appreciation to the Mayo Clinic after undergoing an operation to remove a tumor at the facility. He donated $10 million to support the education of neurosurgery students.

In 2021, the couple made the top fifty most charitable Americans list.

Readers, what do you think of the Sonnetag's generosity? What other organizations in Eau Claire would you like to see them support?

Please leave your comments below.

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