Dollar General is giving $4.5 million to support teachers and students struggling during COVID-19

Dollar General Denine Torr
Denine Torr is the executive director of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and Dollar General’s vice president of corporate social responsibility. Courtesy Dollar General
  • The pandemic has been a challenging time for teachers, students, and parents.
  • With that in mind, Dollar General is spending $US4.5 ($AU6) million on literacy and educational programs.
  • A $US3 ($AU4) million partnership with nonprofit DonorsChoose will allow teachers to purchase supplies.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dollar General is spending $US4.5 ($AU6) million on grants, partnerships, and donations to support students and teachers that have faced ongoing disruption throughout the pandemic, the company exclusively told Insider.

Even before the pandemic, many teachers were forced to pay for their classroom’s school supplies with their own money. Over the past year, educators have been tasked with switching from in-person teaching to remote learning to hybrid classroom models. Burnout for teachers has been severe since the start of the pandemic, and many are quitting the profession altogether. Schools have begun offering sign-on bonuses to attract staff.

And it’s not just teachers who have been facing difficulties. Parents have grappled with the the challenges of home-schooling and the lack of childcare set off by school closures. And the stress of all these changes has also weighed heavily on school-aged children, many of whom struggled with remote learning.

Education has long been a philanthropic focus for Dollar General and the company’s namesake literacy foundation, and the donation is being made in honor of World Teachers’ Day.

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation will pour $US3 ($AU4) million into youth literacy grants. A total of $US1.45 ($AU2) million will go into a new partnership with education nonprofit DonorsChoose. And the remaining $US50,000 ($AU68,618) will be donated to a local literacy non-profit on World Teachers’ Day.

“Over the past year, the pandemic has had a significant impact on education, with over 55 million students across the United States impacted in some form or fashion,” Denine Torr, Dollar General Literacy Foundation executive director and Dollar General vice president of corporate social responsibility, said. “As we started into this back to school season, we were like, ‘Let’s do something that brings joy.'”

Through its partnership with DonorsChoose, the foundation also is seeking to address the issue of educators losing materials, like classroom book sets, school library books, arts and crafts supplies that “never made it back” to the classrooms after students were sent home thanks to COVID-19.

“The reason why we love that so much is because teachers get to go in and say specifically what supplies they want,” Torr said. “Then they get those needs met. We all know that teachers spend way too much money out of their pockets. Most classrooms are grossly underfunded, even before the pandemic.”

The youth literacy grants are slated to go to “hometown grassroots programs, local schools and libraries, and nonprofit organizations out there that are really helping kids learn and thrive,” Torr said.

Torr also spoke about how the issue of education and literacy has become so important to Dollar General. In 1939, businessman J.L Turner founded the company that would one day become known as Dollar General.

“He was functionally functionally illiterate,” Torr said. “He had to drop out in the third grade to take care of the family farm after his father passed away unexpectedly.”

The Turner family established the Dollar General Literacy Foundation in 1993, to honor his legacy. So far, the foundation has donated over $US203 ($AU279) million to literacy advancement.

“J.L. Turner had to create a Fortune 100 company with a limited education,” Torr said. “But how do we take that passion, that knowledge, that potential in each child and then give them the opportunity to grow and thrive. We invest in those programs that give them that opportunity and make sure that it doesn’t matter if they’re in rural, suburban, or urban areas, that it doesn’t matter what zip code they’re in or what stage they’re in. It’s just about creating opportunity for all students to thrive.”