NCCJ honors humanitarian and hotel owner Dennis Quaintance

by Chantelle Grady
Carolina Peacemaker
Originally posted November 11, 2011

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Dennis Quaintance, left, is presented with the 2011 Brotherhood / Sisterhood Citation Award by NCCJ Executive Director Susan Feit. Credit: Charles Edgerton

The National Conference for Community and Justice- Piedmont Triad (NCCJ) honored businessman Dennis Quaintance, during the 45th Annual Brotherhood/Sisterhood Citation Award Dinner on November 3, at Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.

The large crowd of several hundred people mingled outside of the Guilford Ballroom, and was led inside by members of the drumline from Dudley High School’s marching band. It was a wise choice, considering the fact that it can take several minutes to wrangle guests to their tables. Graduates of NCCJ’s flagship program, Anytown, helped usher the guests to their seats and also created a lively atmosphere for the evening.

NCCJ Board chair, Charles W. Saunders, Jr. welcomed the crowd. “Our theme tonight is, From Dreams to Reality,” Saunders told everyone. He spoke of being, against a world of injustice. “Standing up against injustice in all its forms…is what NCCJ is all about,” said Saunders. He also said that the advancements in the way we view differences is paralleled in the organization’s work.

It was announced early in the evening that NCCJ had been selected as the non-profit of the year, by the Guilford County Non-Profit Consortium. NCCJ Executive Director, Susan Feit, said that guaranteed civil rights for just some people will not bring this country to a point of reaching its potential. She added, “Investing in the human spirit is the most cost effective way to build a community.”

Feit reported to the audience that the organization’s programs had already reached 22,301 people so far this year. That drew rousing applause throughout the ballroom.

The event also highlighted the success of Anytown, a week-long youth leadership program that involves more than the traditional summer camp. Participants shared musical selections, and Grimsley High School senior, Elizabeth Franks-North explained why she embodies the Anytown spirit. She said she decided to view the world differently. “Why would I go through the trouble to change myself?” she asked rhetorically, “Why? Because change is possible. NCCJ makes change possible. Hate is something that separates us.” She concluded by adding that compassion and acceptance bring us together as the human race.

Board member Ivan Canada and dinner chairs, Tim and Carolynn Rice, presented honoree Dennis Quaintance. Quaintance is CEO of Quaintance-Weaver, a company that has made its mark in the hotel and restaurant industry. Businesses under its umbrella include Lucky 32 restaurant, and the O. Henry and Proximity Hotels.

Canada, who is employed by the company, said that Quaintance makes a point of recruiting people on the margins of society. “He has made social justice a mission,” Canada said, and that Quaintance lives his life with a superior standard of empathy.

Quaintance said he became aware of injustice by witnessing how his own mother had been mistreated simply because she was female. He made a point of living and working with higher principles. When speaking on his company’s efforts at ensuring diversity, Quaintance said: “I know that I’m sincere and our company’s sincere,” about hiring practices.

He spoke with candor, humor and humility. “I humbly accept this recognition,” he said and that his team deserves the credit. “Our company is deeply honored, my family is honored…”

It was Quaintance’s mother’s lessons on fairness that molded how he conducts himself in life, and in business. She taught him to, “Believe in treating people fairly and with dignity,” something he instills in his twin son and daughter. He also said that when it comes down to his company’s bottom line, “It’s plain good business,” to practice that belief system.

Quaintance mentioned strides towards equality by saying that, “We’ve made some steps…not all of them forward. I suggest we all dream of ways (to adjust our behavior and thinking).”

He closed his remarks by encouraging the audience to focus on love, compassion and service. “Bias, bigotry and racism stand in the way of our progress. What if we became the change we wanted to see? What if we all saw the same thing?” On that last comment Quaintance ended his acceptance speech with “peace and love,” and sat down to a standing ovation.

For more information on the organization and its programs, log on to www.nccjtriad.org