At the 2017 National Philanthropy Day Awards Ceremony held at Grandover Resort on November 20, Triad Health Project supporters Dr. Mike Ignelzi and his wife Gay Maness were among those recognized with the Spirit of Philanthropy award, which honors individuals for their outstanding service to the community. Mike and Gay were presented with this award in recognition of their kind service at THP’s Higher Ground day center and for their generous sponsorship over the last several years of the Red Ribbon Run & AIDS Walk through their Lake Jeanette Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry practice.
A culture of making a difference and effecting change is woven into every aspect of Lake Jeanette Orthodontics & Pediatric Dentistry, including its philanthropic approach to community. Through the practice, Mike and Gay sponsor and contribute to numerous local charitable nonprofit events and campaigns with hunger being one of their main concerns. Mike and Gay have a special place in their heart for the work of THP.
Gay began serving lunch with fellow members of All Saints Episcopal Church at THP’s Higher Ground day center about four years ago. She says that she went to Higher Ground once and that was all it took to get hooked on the unique, loving and supportive place that Higher Ground is. Gay describes going to Higher Ground as profoundly moving for her. “No matter what else is going on, it’s such a great place to be.” She says she is humbled by the kindness, the graciousness and the sense of appreciation from clients who come to Higher Ground experiencing the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS. She smiles when describing how, “You drive up and six people run to help you unload your desserts and other items. It’s just all the little things. They talk about how much it means to have a place where they can come and not be judged.” Gay loves that when her group provides lunch for Higher Ground that, “it’s not like you’re serving the food. It’s like you’re having a meal with someone. Everybody is sitting down and eating together. Everybody feels like it’s one family.”
In reflecting on Higher Ground and how people there treat one another with compassion, dignity, respect and kindness, Gay makes the connection to how she and Dr. Mike approach their dental practice. They feel a sense of responsibility to have a good, successful business so that they can be in a position care for their employees and their employees’ families. Fair wages, good health insurance, taking care of the families the children and families of staff, taking time out for staff appreciation events, Gay says, are things that she and Dr. Mike just feel it’s their duty to do. “We’re very grateful because we know that we could not be successful without them, without the time they spend, without the kindness in the way they treat people. If you look at the reviews of the practice, it’s the way people are treated the whole time they’re here. So everybody is important. People in the front are just as important as people in the back.” For Gay and Mike, treating their employees well is a smart business model and they strive to have a practice where people enjoy their work and are proud of the work they do. THP is proud to partner with Gay and Mike in caring for those living with HIV/AIDS and working to prevent new infections in our community.