• Seals named Philanthropist of the Year by New Braunfels Community Foundation

    Gary Seals, a local businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist, was named as the New Braunfels Philanthropist of the Year by New Braunfels Community Foundation on Dec. 5.

    The award, better known as “The Eager,” was announced during the NBCF year-end event at McKenna Events Center by NBCF Board Member Wes Studdard and McKenna Foundation CEO Alice Jewell.

    “This is the second bestowing of the New Braunfels Philanthropist of the Year Award,” Jewell explained. “According to the namesake of the award, Cecil Eager believes a community foundation encourages people to be generous and it provides a vehicle for people to place their money in a perpetual fund so that their assets outlive them. But their desires and goals will continue. This person will have exhibited generosity in their charitable giving, or aided in procuring donors, or been an example of paying it forward, or have worked to grow the Foundation, or been a leader in their work life and civic volunteerism, or worked to improve the Foundations effectiveness. Our recipient this year has ‘walked the walk’ and done all of these.”

    Seals opened his first waterbed store when he was 21. He says he expanded his “empire” until folks chose to stop buying waterbeds. He worked for various furniture companies until he discovered, according to him now, he wasn’t a very good employee. In 2002, he opened his first Ashley Furniture Homestore in Pflugerville. In 2003, Michael Meek with the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce and the City of New Braunfels Economic Development Corporation enticed him to move his headquarters and warehouse to New Braunfels.

    Seals and his family fell in love with New Braunfels. Over the next 17 years, he and his team would open 35 locations in four states with more than 1,200 associates. He founded “Furnishing Dreams” which delivered beds to kids who didn’t have one of their own. The business was sold in 2019, and he turned his attention to residential and commercial real estate, investing in downtown New Braunfels, and launching an art gallery in Austin with an “art for all” mission that supports several nonprofits.

    That same year he met with Alice Jewell with McKenna Foundation to discuss opening a teen center for disadvantaged youth. A recent McKenna study identified a significant gap in services to our youth in after-school programs and activities. That meeting led to the founding of the New Braunfels Youth Collaborative that will help our middle and high school youth to become the best version of themselves.

    Since moving here, Seals has served and supported a multitude of civic and nonprofit organizations. He serves as a board member with Connections, advisory board member with Chosen Care, and chair of the New Braunfels Youth Collaborative. He currently serves as the vice chair of the New Braunfels Community Foundation and will being serving as the chair in 2024.

    “It’s an honor to serve on the board of the New Braunfels Community Foundation,” Seals said. “NBCF serves as a unifying force, pooling the financial resources of individuals, families, and businesses to bolster local nonprofits. By facilitating and supporting others in realizing their charitable aspirations, our foundation is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in New Braunfels through philanthropy.”

    “The New Braunfels Community Foundation created this award to not only provide deserved recognition for the recipient(s) but also increase awareness locally of the importance of philanthropy,” Studdard said.

    Seals said working with the New Braunfels Community Foundation was important to him because of the legacy of giving that pays it forward.

    “Donors find a partner in NBCF, assisting in crafting customized gift plans that reflect their philanthropic passions,” Seals said. “We work diligently to expand donations, ensuring sustained support for the community’s charitable needs for years to come.”

    “It is in this spirit and with great gratitude that the New Braunfels Community Foundation awards the second The Cecil Eager Philanthropist of the Year Award in his honor to Gary Seals,” Studdard said. “We should all strive to be so ‘Eager!’”

    For more on charitable giving, visit www.nbcommunityfoundation.org.

McKenna actively provides services to enhance the health and well-being of the greater New Braunfels community, serving as a partner and resource to others who share our goals — now and for future generations.

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