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Ashley’s Ron Wanek Honored With Service Award

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Ronald Wanek, founder and chairman of Ashley Furniture Inds., received the 2011 Distinguished Service Award from the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) during the group’s Annual Meeting in La Jolla, Calif., on Nov. 11.

Wanek founded Ashley Furniture in the early 1970s and built the company from a modest manufacturer of occasional tables to the largest residential furniture manufacturer in the world and the second largest furnishings retailer in the United States.

“He is highly regarded for his unparalleled vision, relentless determination and hard work, along with his commitment to his family, extensive civic activities and unabashed patriotism,” said Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and CEO of Ethan Allen, who presented the award during the AHFA’s annual awards gala. Kathwari added that one of Wanek’s strongest attributes is “his absolute willingness to accept great risk and then proceed as if there’s no risk at all.”

Ashley Furniture is the primary economic engine in Arcadia, Wisc., and, at a time when many competitors are down-sizing, Wanek has added both manufacturing and retail jobs. He is known in his community and throughout the industry for his ethics and strong family values, and he is passionate about giving back to his community. His philanthropy sets the example for his employees, who have themselves contributed several million dollars annually to local, national and international charities. Some of the company’s causes include St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the American Red Cross, the Arcadia Public Library and Mayo Foundation Medical Research.

Additionally, the company and its employees have raised over $4 million for the City of Hope, which honored Wanek in 1999 with its Spirit of Life Award, as well as $1.1 million for Hurricane Katrina victims, $1 million for Minnesota and Wisconsin flood victims and hundreds of thousands for China earthquake relief efforts and for local children and their families as part of the Ashley Little Angel program in Mississippi.

One of Wanek’s most notable endeavors is the creation and development of a memorial park in Arcadia that is filled with statues of men and women who gave their lives to protect America’s freedoms. An accomplished artist in his own right, Wanek created 23 of the park’s sculptures himself. Earlier this year, the park unveiled a bronze statue of Wanek, describing him as “one of the greatest industrialists in Wisconsin history.”

Wanek served as president of AHFA in 2000 and was elected into the Furniture Industry Hall of Fame in 2006. With three children, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, Wanek takes pride in welcoming future generations of his family into the business.

AHFA’s Distinguished Service Award has been presented annually for the past 45 years. Recipients are noted for their contributions to the industry, the association and their local communities.

The American Home Furnishings Alliance, based in High Point, N.C., is the largest association of home furnishings companies in the world and represents more than 200 leading furniture manufacturers and distributors, plus about 150 suppliers to the furniture industry worldwide.

 

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