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A fourth generation of Gunderson generosity

Posted on May 6, 2019, by

Future philanthropists: (Back Row) Ella, 13; Sam, 15; Jack, 12; (front row) Graden, 6; Calvin, 1; Norah, 4; Lily, 4


When Gary Gunderson and his wife Judy wanted to help their grandchildren create a legacy of giving, Gary decided to look back a generation first.

“My father loved children and loved the Fox Valley. He set the example of investing in the community because the community made a heck of an investment in him,” says Gary Gunderson. “He believed that if you can teach people the concept of philanthropy when they’re young, they’ll invest in the future.”

A year before Doug Gunderson (founder of Gunderson Cleaners), died in 2014, the family set up an endowed donor advised fund within the Community Foundation, the Doug and Mary Gunderson Family Fund. Gary and Judy determined that family members had to be at least ten years of age to participate in granting decisions.  

Trinket the cat holds a grant distribution check to Saving Paws Animal Rescue from the Doug and Mary Gunderson Family Fund within the Community Foundation

“It was time to distribute gifts from our dad’s fund, and we thought, ‘we have three grandkids over 10, so let’s get them involved,’” Judy says.

The Gundersons called on the Community Foundation to help their grandchildren, 15-year-old Sam, a freshman at Xavier High School, and his siblings 13-year-old Ella and 12-year-old Jack, both at St. Francis Xavier Middle School, grasp the concept of philanthropy.

The three met last fall with Ann Engelhard, vice president of donor services and gift planning at the Foundation.

“I shared a video about community foundations and explained the need in the Fox Valley and how we work with donors and families. After identifying which areas of need they were interested in, I developed a list of area organizations, projects and volunteer opportunities for each of them,” Ann says.

From the portfolios, each child selected one or two local nonprofit organizations and determined how they would help.

Sam selected two organizations: Fox Valley Humane Association and the Thompson Center on Lourdes, serving older adults. He told his family, “When I’m older I want a place like this to hang out with my friends.”

Ella picked Saving Paws Animal Rescue, and Jack selected Pillars Inc., because, “I couldn’t imagine not having a home.”

The organizations received their fund distribution checks right before Christmas.

“Ann did a great job, and they got really excited,” Gary says. “The kids had so much fun in the process, and we’re gearing up to do it again in a few months.”


Interested in exploring a family fund? We have a variety of flexible fund options. Check them out here.

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