Partners in life, philanthropy, building a better Milwaukee

For more than two decades Bill Krugler was in the business of investing money as managing director at Mason Wells, a private equity investment firm in Milwaukee.

He dedicated a lot of time to his career over the years, which also involved management positions at Arthur Andersen and M&I Capital Markets Group, and it provided he and his wife, Christie, with a firm financial foundation on which to build a family.

But a few years ago he became more interested in a different kind of investment that would involve more of his time and that of his whole family – giving back to Milwaukee. He retired in 2011 and a year later he and Christie created a donor advised fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

“We, as a family, were blessed financially beyond what we ever expected,” Krugler said. “Knowing we are both involved in the city, it really resonated that here we have a community foundation that is in business basically to make a difference in Milwaukee. The goals of Foundation and what we wanted to do were very much aligned.”

Their relationship with the Foundation is fresh but their path toward philanthropy was paved a long time ago. Bill credits his faith community for exposing him to the concept of service. Christie traces her desire to give back to her involvement in a sorority at the University of Iowa.

Through their involvement in their church, Fox Point Lutheran, they became familiar with Milwaukee nonprofits like The Gathering, a meal program, and Serenity Inns, a transitional living program for homeless men struggling with addiction. As they became more involved, they also brought their sons, Jeff, Jack and Andy, to volunteer there.

“We’ve always been pretty charitable and thoughtful as to what we wanted to do when we had the ability to do it,” Bill said. “We wanted to get them exposed to the fact that there are a lot of people who aren’t as fortunate as we have been as a family.”

Their philanthropy initially started with a financial commitment and over the years has grown into more hands-on involvement. Their fund supports those agencies to which they are deeply connected.

“We have the opportunity to fund the things that we are involved in in a much greater way,” said Christie about their fund.

While they share a set of common interests, they also have their own philanthropic passions. Christie is an ardent cheerleader for 88.9 Radio Milwaukee and PEARLS for Teen Girls, where she serves on its development committee and board. Beyond his involvement on the advisory boards of Serenity Inns and Walnut Way, Bill’s passions lie in economic and workforce development. He started Jobs Work, a nonprofit that he says takes a business approach to tackling poverty in Milwaukee.

The majority of that nonprofit’s work revolves around helping chronically unemployed individuals obtain skills, training and intensive support needed to obtain and maintain a job. It also works with smaller central city organizations like Walnut Way’s Blue Skies Landscaping to grow their businesses by securing contracts with large anchor institutions in the city.

While not lacking ideas for what to support through their fund, Christie said they enjoy the Foundation exposing them to new nonprofits and initiatives, like the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Match Day, to support. They also look forward to involving their sons more and took their first step last Thanksgiving by holding a family meeting at the Foundation.

While their sons’ passions might be different than their own, Christie said they hope they understand the importance of giving back.

“I think they are definitely getting the message by what we are doing,” she said.

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