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'It really does add up:' Ownership group gives away free school supplies to educators

Leonard Management McDonald’s donating $30,000 worth of supplies to region’s teachers

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Donna DeNure, a speech language pathologist at L.B. Williams Elementary School in Mitchell, picks up a bag of school supplies from McDonald's employee Ashley Dorzok Monday. The event, held at the McDonald's on Main Street in Mitchell, was a giveaway program sponsored by Leonard Management.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — With August right around the corner, preparations for the start of the 2022-23 school year are getting underway. For students, that may mean a trip to the store for new school clothes, getting their annual athletic physicals or stocking up on notebooks, pens and pencils.

But they’re not the only ones looking at acquiring new school supplies.

Elementary and high school teachers across the country are also hard at work getting their classrooms ready to once again host students, and that means preparing lesson plans, arranging their classrooms and, yes, picking up school supplies.

That’s exactly what they were doing Monday at the McDonald’s on Main Street in Mitchell, where the restaurant’s ownership group, Leonard Management, was hosting a free school supply kit giveaway to area educators. The event is part of their annual Classroom Kits Teacher’s Event.

With school district budgets tight and South Dakota teacher salaries regularly ranked among the lowest in the nation, every little bit of help counts, said Marla Snyder, director of marketing, public relations and events for Leonard Management.

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Marla Snyder, with Leonard Management, talks about some of the items the company was giving away to teachers Monday at the McDonald's on Main Street in Mitchell.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic

“We invite teachers in and give them a bag full of school supplies,” Snyder told the Mitchell Republic during the event. “A lot of people aren’t aware that they use their own money to buy things for their classrooms, including extra school supplies. This is a great way to offset some of the costs.”

As many as 75 teachers signed up for the school kits, which contained essential items like pencils, Post-It notes, tissues, glue sticks, scissors, pens and markers. Snyder said based on the number of teachers who signed up, they expected to give every kit away over the course of the afternoon. The program is open to all educators, including elementary, high school and homeschool teachers, as well as daycare providers.

“We do a signup ahead of time to secure a spot, and it’s a full house. That’s so exciting,” Snyder said.

The company promotion is now in its third year, the first having been held locally in Mitchell in 2020. Snyder said the initial concept for the promotion came from company owner Steve Leonard, who had sisters who worked as teachers and would often recount buying their own supplies for the classroom.

“This is one of our largest donation givebacks that we do in our organization. This is near and dear to Steve Leonard, the idea came from him. His two sisters were teachers, and he constantly heard from them how much money they spent every year,” Snyder said. “That was how we came up with the idea. We wanted to do something and we thought of a lot of different ideas, and this is the one that stuck.”

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School supply kits were ready for distribution at the McDonald's on Main Street in Mitchell Monday afternoon. Leonard Management, a McDonald's ownership group, was giving away 75 of the kits to area educators.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic

Area teachers began filtering through the door Monday afternoon, some in groups with fellow teachers, others with their own children in tow. It was a festive atmosphere, with lots of friendly chatter as colleagues from different school districts reconnected and talked.

The promotion is open to teachers throughout the area, including schools outside the Mitchell School District. Jennifer Jacques, a special education teacher from Ethan, said she was happy to pick up a kit, especially for some of the items her classroom goes through the most.

“(We go through some supplies) more than others. Like glue sticks,” Jacques said. “And some of my fellow coworkers are supposed to be here, as well.”

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Donna DeNure, a speech language pathologist at L.B. Williams Elementary in Mitchell, said every bit of help teachers can get in the form of obtaining school supplies is appreciated. So many teachers dip into their own funds to help make the classroom experience a good one for their students.

“We’re always very thankful for any business that remembers us and thinks of us this time of year. And it’s always great things you can use in the classroom,” DeNure said. “It really does add up. I think we all, when it’s time to prepare our classrooms to get ready for students, we all contribute out of our own pocket. So this is really nice to have a business who thinks highly enough of us to provide some assistance.”

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Leonard Management gave away 75 school supply kits to area educators Monday at the McDonald's on Main Street in Mitchell.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic

Last year, Leonard Management was able to give away over $30,000 of supplies to teachers at several of the group’s locations, including Mitchell, Huron, Yankton and Pierre as well as locations in Fremont, Norfolk and Omaha, Nebraska and Pipestone, Minnesota.

The project has been successful and well-received, said Nate Leonard, another owner in the ownership group. In fact, the company has been slowly expanding the scope and outreach of the promotion to include more restaurants, more kits and more supplies in those kits.

“It seems like we’ve built upon some success the last couple of years. We’re trying to bring some help to teachers with their needs in the classroom, and we’ve expanded it to more locations across our organization while also coming back to the communities that we’ve already been involved with,” Leonard said.

The ownership group plans to keep holding the yearly event for years to come, as well as promote its other programs that support area schools. McTeacher Night is a program that donates 15% of all sale proceeds to participating schools. The signup deadline for the next round for that program is Aug. 1, and interested parties can sign up at leonardmcd.com

It all comes back to helping teachers provide the best learning environment they can for their students, Leonard said.

“Everybody feels like it’s a community supporting the schools, so the more people you have behind it and supporting it, the better it is in the end,” Leonard said.

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Donated backpacks, pencils, pens and more can be dropped off starting next week

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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