A surprise donation of $10,000 turned into a real-life lesson Tuesday at a Muscogee County school.
Three officials from Dollar General visited Blanchard Elementary School in north Columbus to present the check from the Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based company’s literacy foundation and explain the selection.
The Dollar General store on Miller Road finished first in this year’s customer satisfaction survey within the company’s division comprising Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. As a result, Dollar General chose Blanchard, the closest school to the store (about 2 miles away), to give one of its $10,000 grants.
The three Dollar General officials didn’t know how many grants are being given nationwide this year, but the company’s website says the foundation has awarded more than $127 million in grants since 1993.
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“Oh, my heavens,” Blanchard principal Dawn Grantham gushed as Dollar General district manager James Swanson disclosed the gift amount in the school’s office. “Oh, my gosh. That is so generous of you all. Thank you very much.”
Grantham hugged Swanson, Dollar General regional director Georja Murphy and store manager Michele Dushane. They reconvened in the school’s library, where media specialist Kristine Mitchell gave them more hugs and Grantham told the gathered students a story to connect the donation to their education.
“Last night, your teachers sat in this media center, right where you guys are sitting,” Grantham told the students. “We had a faculty meeting, and we talked about that the teaching profession is a service to our community, that the teachers in our school serve you all. They serve you by teaching you, and they serve your parents by partnering with your parents to provide a fabulous community where you can live and hopefully have families yourself.”
So she had that notion in mind when the Dollar General officials visited. She asked the students how many of them have been to Dollar General. Nearly all raised their hand.
“This is why these folks are here, because of your support to them,” the principal said. “They serve our community, much like we teachers serve our community, and they have heard from your parents and your neighbors and your grandparents and your friends and perhaps from you what a great store they have.”
The students probably bought a lot of school supplies there, Grantham said, so the Dollar General officials came to Blanchard “to tell us how much they appreciate our support. And in this envelope is a check for our school.”
Grantham asked the students to guess the amount. One of them, fifth-grader Micah Lopez, got it right, but Grantham didn’t reveal that until she read the students part of the letter from Dollar General:
“Dear Mrs. Grantham, Dollar General recognizes the important role Blanchard Elementary School plays in developing the youth of tomorrow. As the holiday season approaches, we would like to show our appreciation for the beautiful work the faculty and staff does for our students each and every day.”
After the applause, James Swanson, the company’s district manager, told the students that this is the first time he has been part of the surprise grant.
“We are so excited to be able to do this,” he said.
Then he made them laugh when he said, “We appreciate your parents shopping with us and getting you guys anything that you want and making them pay for it. … We hope this all goes to the way you guys want it to go.”
Grantham told the Ledger-Enquirer she will ask the school’s staff, students and parents how to use the money.
“The way we do things at Blanchard is that we get input from everybody,” she said.
Micah, 10, told the Dollar General officials, “You’re awesome.”
Dushane, the store manager whose nieces and nephews attended Blanchard, said, “Now I’m feeling like I’m giving back to all those that made me No. 1.”