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Refined Palette

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Nbroverman

Rand Skolnick had only four months to live after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the spring of 2008. So Skolnick, the owner of a successful New Jersey-based vitamin company, used that time to collaborate with his partner, Terrence Meck, on the goals of a foundation he created years earlier but had yet to turn into a working charity. By the time Skolnick passed away on July 4, 2008, at the age of 50, Meck knew exactly what Skolnick wanted to accomplish through his organization.

"We discussed what he wanted to see happen with his legacy," the 32-year-old Meck says. "We had opened a few businesses together, mainly a gay bar and restaurant in Pennsylvania. I stepped away from that to turn the fund into a working foundation."

Called the Palette Fund--and named after a Los Angeles restaurant where Skolnick met his best friend, Peter Benassi--Skolnick's foundation launched late last year with a $30 million endowment, Meck as executive director, Benassi as chairman, and a mission of supporting education, gay rights, and healthy eating habits.

Palette's focus comes not only from Skolnick and Meck's discussions that spring but also their experiences. After hiring a nutritionist who specializes in cooking for cancer patients, the couple began to view food as medicine.

"Nutrition, whether with cancer or HIV, is a great tool in treatment," Meck says.

Palette now donates nutritional cookbooks to Gay Men's Health Crisis, sponsors a healthy-eating initiative at a Harlem school, and partners with designer Donna Karan, who lost her husband to cancer in 2001, to sponsor a series of seminars on food and wellness.

Skolnick wanted Palette to continue his work on HIV and LGBT causes. In addition to working with GMHC, the fund paid for new office space for New York's Bailey House, an organization that provides shelter and other services to homeless people with HIV and with which Skolnick worked extensively during his life. Palette's endowment also helped establish paid internship programs at both the Trevor Project, the suicide hotline for gay youth, and the Point Foundation, which provides college scholarships to gay students.

All of Palette's programs--which include additional grants to gay youth organizations, a needle-exchange program, and money for cancer research and patient advocacy--has left Meck very busy, for which he's thankful.

"I channeled a lot of the sadness into the positive energy of the work we're doing," Meck says. "It's a great way to have Rand in my life."

Nbroverman
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Neal Broverman

Neal Broverman is the Editorial Director, Print of Pride Media, publishers of The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, and Plus, spending more than 20 years in journalism. He indulges his interest in transportation and urban planning with regular contributions to Los Angeles magazine, and his work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He lives in the City of Angels with his husband, children, and their chiweenie.
Neal Broverman is the Editorial Director, Print of Pride Media, publishers of The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, and Plus, spending more than 20 years in journalism. He indulges his interest in transportation and urban planning with regular contributions to Los Angeles magazine, and his work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He lives in the City of Angels with his husband, children, and their chiweenie.