Terrence Meck is doing his partner proud. After Rand Skolnick died of pancreatic cancer in 2008, Meck worked around the clock to turn Skolnick’s foundation, the Palette Fund, into a functioning charity that supports numerous causes. With a $20 million endowment, Meck directed considerable financial support to LGBT, HIV, nutrition, and patient navigation efforts. Four years later, Meck’s work is being recognized by other big-name philanthropists. The 34-year-old was honored last week at the Jeffrey Fashion Cares event, an annual fund-raiser put on by fashion entrepreneur Jeffrey Kalinsky that raises millions to fight HIV. On the USS Intrepid in New York Harbor, Meck received the first Jeffrey Fashion Cares Community Leadership Award, with stars such as Chloë Sevigny, a Jeffrey Cares honorary chair, in attendance. We caught up with Meck to talk about the honor and what’s next for the Palette Fund.
The Advocate: How did it feel to be named the first recipient of the Jeffrey Fashion Cares Community Leadership Award?
Meck: Todd Sears, one of the cochairs who started the event nine years ago, called me. Then Jeffrey Kalinsky sent me an email. I was shocked. I’ve been going to the event for eight years. Rand, my partner who the foundation is all in honor of, and I went to what was the second Jeffrey Cares. So it was pretty exciting. It’s the first year they’re doing this award, and I know Jeffrey felt really strongly about making it an annual award, so it was quite an honor to be their first awardee. It felt shocking as well, I don’t know if anybody feels deserving when they get an award. There are so many amazing leaders in our community.
What charities and organizations is the Palette Fund supporting now?
We’re in our fourth year, our third real year — it’ll be four years since Rand died on July 4. We’ve granted more than $2.5 million since he died. With our LGBT giving, we still focus a lot on youth. We’re part of a queer youth fund, which does $100,000 grants to grassroots organizations, and we’re one of six funders that each give $100,000.
We also started with two other funders — the Queer Consciousness fund, which is similar in scope, where it's three funders who've come together. We each give $25,000 grants, and it's a little bit of different funding — more around consciousness and wellness and spirituality in the LGBT movement. We're also in the midst of finishing up a survey we've been doing with the Williams Institute [at the University of California, Los Angeles] and Cyndi Lauper's True Colors Fund that's on the state of homeless organizations in the country. So we put out a survey to hundreds of organizations throughout the country. The Williams Institute will be doing an official report on the state of [LGBT-related] homeless youth services throughout the U.S.; it'll be the first report of its kind.
We’re also in our third year of our Point Foundation scholarship. It's a student scholarship in perpetuity in Rand's name. We also helped launch Point’s summer internship program and that grant actually goes through the Jeffrey Fashion Cares event, so of our $100,000 donation to Jeffrey Fashion Cares, $30,000 goes toward Point’s summer internship program. It allows their scholars to do summer internships that they actually help design; part of the requirement is that it has to be with a nonprofit. Last summer it had to be a homeless youth organization, as it will be this summer as well. So the scholars are allowed to have a wonderful nonprofit internship that provides them the stipend of what most summer jobs would be, and they can also give back to the community helping them go to school and make enough money to contribute to their own schooling as well.
With the economy picking up a bit, have you noticed any difference in people getting back into philanthropy?
I’ve been talking to a lot of executive directors, and this is a big event season, dinners and different events coming up. It seems like corporations are definitely coming back and more corporate sponsors are coming through. People seem to be raising more money than years past, although ticket sales and individual donors may not be quite as high as years past. Speaking across the board, the money is definitely coming up again, which is great, it might be a little different where it’s coming up. I can’t say for individual donors, since we don’t fund-raise for ourselves, but talking to organizations in the LGBT movement and attending events, things seem to be definitely on the upswing. Which is a great thing.