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Changemakers: High Point Community Foundation

August 29, 2019

When you love something, you take care of it. You make sure it is protected, celebrated, and valued. When you love something, you act on its behalf.

In 1998, forward-looking High Point citizens decided that their love for High Point needed action behind it. And thus was born the High Point Community Foundation (HPCF). Conceived by men and women who had poured their life, resources, and energy into our city, HPCF was formed with the purpose of creating a permanent endowment that would continue to grow and meet the needs of the High Point community for years to come. They called this foundation, a “Reservoir of Hope;” a pool of resources that would provide opportunities to promote a healthy, educated, cared-for community.

We sat down with Paul Lessard, founding president of the High Point Community Foundation to hear about how this organization gives back and what makes it such a valuable part of our city. Read on to hear about the ways that our community prioritizes taking care of its own.

Paul Lessard, pictured above, is the founding president of the High Point Community Foundation, established in 1998.

Q. When was HPCF founded and what was the vision?

A. We were founded in 1998 by a remarkable group of visionaries who knew, loved and served our community throughout their lives. They understood that High Point would always have needs and they saw this Foundation as a “Reservoir of Hope” that would always be here to serve the good people of High Point. They understood that the needs would change with each generation and that the Board of Trustees would always have leaders who would know how to best serve these needs through wise granting.

Q. What is one thing people would be interested to learn about High Point Community Foundation?

A. We started with $5 million in May of 1998 and today have $116 million in assets under management. In the last 21 years we have granted over $70 million.

Q. What are the highlights of operating a non-profit in High Point?

A. The highlight would be that High Point is full of good people who rise to the occasion when a genuine need comes to light. I believe we are one of the most generous, compassionate and caring communities in this country.

Q. How has High Point changed since you became the president of the High Point Community Foundation?

A. I have seen more positive change in the last 7 years then I have seen in the last 30. I believe High Pointers understand that we have a window of opportunity to rejuvenate our downtown and our educational system, to make us one of the most progressive cities in the South.

Q. What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

A. My biggest challenge, and it is one that will continue, is that I have the privilege of working with some of the finest leaders in this community and I fall in love with them and it is so hard to lose them. Folks like Bill Horney, Jim and Jess Millis, Rob Culp, Yogi Yarborough, Jack & Marsha Slane, George Erath, Bob Amos, Robert McInnis, Hilda Fountain and so many others have left an indelible mark upon my heart. They have made me a better man and leader for knowing and working with them.

Q. How have the citizens and community of High Point supported you?

A. The community of High Point has always been such a loyal, generous and enthusiastic supporters of our Foundation from the very beginning. Where else in the world can you see a community raise over $100 million in 21 years? I have been humbled and honored to witness this incredible growth and play a leadership role in this great endeavor.

Q. Do you have a particular geographic or demographic focus?

A. The High Point Community Foundation serves nonprofits in the Greater High Point community which includes Archdale, Jamestown, Trinity, Thomasville and Lexington

Q. If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out in High Point, what would it be?

A. I would pass on 2 pieces of wisdom that Bill Horney shared with me when I first started at the Foundation. First, from the Book of Micah, “What does the Lord require of us? To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.” Secondly, Bill always used to tell folks that “giving is so much fun and rewarding when it is done with a warm hand!”

Q. What are you excited about for High Point’s future?

A. I am so excited and proud that our Community Foundation has been able to make such a significant impact upon our local school system through investing in education with initiatives like Say Yes Guilford and Students First. I can say with confidence that looking back over our 21-year history, our granting focus has been overwhelmingly targeted on investing in our local schools. We realized early on that a healthy community must have robust and progressive local schools.

Q. How can the readers of High Point Discovered help the High Point Community Foundation? Any specific needs that our readers can provide?

A. The best way all folks in this community can help our Community Foundation and thereby help High Point is to give each year to our “Community Impact” Fund which provides monies for our Annual Grants Program. It doesn’t matter if the gift is $5 or $500,000, they all help play a role in the Annual Grants we give every single year.

Q. How can citizens find out more?

A. Through our website at hpcommunityfoundation.org; on our Facebook page @highpointcommunityfoundation; on LinkedIn at high-point-community-foundation, or they can call us at 336.882.3298.

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Photography by Maria West Photography

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