By Todd Cohen
GREENSBORO, N.C. — People with HIV/AIDS eat lunch every day at Higher Ground, a house in Fisher Park near downtown Greensboro leased by owner Bob Page for $1 a year to the Triad Health Project, a local AIDS service organization.
People in the local gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community can network and do business through the Triad Business and Professional Guild, a business organization Page helped form in the early 1990s.
And students in the Guilford County Schools are protected from harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity through a policy adopted with significant input from a local group founded and chaired by Gary Palmer, assistant vice president of community affairs at Replacements Ltd.
Fostering an open society and championing human dignity are the focus of charitable efforts by Page and Replacements, the Greensboro firm he founded in 1981 that is the world’s largest retailer of discontinued and active tableware and collectibles.
“I prefer to give my money to organizations that are going to help mankind,” says Page.
The annual charitable budget for the privately-held company, which employs 570 people and has more than $70 million in annual sales, totals $150,000, mainly in the form of sponsorships for publications of groups the company supports, says Andrew Spainhour, the company’s general counsel, who oversees its community affairs programs.
Sixty percent of those funds support local and regional groups working in a variety of fields, and the remainder support national groups, mainly those working to end anti-gay bias.
The company also contributes its products to scores of charities each year for use in silent auctions and other fundraising efforts and encourages its employees and executives to support local causes, Spainhour says.
“What Replacements does really well is participate in the community,” he says. “One of the things we stress is for our leaders to be involved in the community.”
Palmer, for example, who was named the company’s first full-time community affairs official four years ago, serves on boards for numerous groups, including United Way of Greater Greensboro; the local chapter of the National Conference for Community and Justice; the Guilford County AIDS Partnership; the Greensboro Human Relations Commission; and the Greensboro chapter of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network.
That group was instrumental in passage of the non-harassment policy the Guilford County Board of Education adopted in January 2004 that is believed to be the first and only one of its kind in North Carolina, Spainhour says.
An 11-member employee community affairs council meets monthly to identify local initiatives and projects that employees should know about, and the company uses email and an internal company website to post information about those opportunities, Spainhour says.
Recent efforts included a $20,000 sponsorship of the dessert finale at the Greensboro Coliseum for Dining for Friends, a series of private dinners and get-togethers that raised $132,000 for the Triad Health Project.
A separate party for Replacements employees at the home of Page and Dale Frederiksen, his domestic partner of 16 years and the company’s vice president for product services, raised nearly $6,000 more for the event.
“We believe powerfully in the need to create and foster open society,” Spainhour says. “We’re extremely interested in furthering human dignity. We want to see everyone in the community have an opportunity to participate without barriers standing in the way.”