Cubby's stores aim to put school supplies in Mitchell students' hands

·4 min read

Jul. 14—MITCHELL — Convenience stores are a place to pick up what you need. Hundreds of customers a day stop by to grab gas, food and other travel necessities in a quick in-and-out format.

And starting next week, a pair of Mitchell convenience stores will be a place to drop off necessities of a different kind.

Cubby's

two Mitchell stores, located at 1000 S. Burr Street and 1700 W. Havens Street will be gathering donated school supplies for Mitchell students as the 2022-23 school year approaches.

"In our business, we're very community-forward and community-facing. We're the place people go to in the morning to get their coffee, their fuel. We have everyone walking in all the time," said De Lone Wilson, president of Cubby's, which is headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. "And education has been a theme of ours."

Along with other Cubby's locations across Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa, the two Mitchell locations will have bins set up in the stores for customers to drop off items such as backpacks, pens, pencils, crayons, markers, notebooks, scissors, glue and other school supplies that will be distributed to area school district. In the case of the Mitchell locations, donated supplies will be sent to the Mitchell School District.

The effort is dubbed the Back-to-School Backpack Program.

It's a project that Cubby's stores took on just this year as part of a promotion in its Omaha market along with partners KETV and the Salvation Army. Another chain of stores that had previously participated in the project was recently bought out, and Cubby's had a chance to jump on board as a new partner in the endeavor.

Wilson said the supply drive fit in well with the company viewpoint, which has had a focus on education for years, starting with a scholarship program for employees and their dependents. The company has also run promotions that see a portion of the money earned from large pizza sales donated to school districts, known as the Raise Some Dough Program.

"Twenty-plus years ago we started a scholarship program for our employees and their dependents, offering scholarships to a four-year or two-year or a trade school. We've given away about $360,000 in scholarship funds," Wilson said. "The opportunity came up for us to sponsor (this program) and we looked at it from an exposure standpoint and the impact it had in providing school supplies for kids in need."

Donations will be sent straight to the Mitchell School District for distribution based on how administration and teachers see fit, said Mark Ryan, whose company handles marketing for the Cubby's chain.

"We're just going to collect it all and take it to the superintendent's office," Ryan said.

And there is a need for donated school supplies.

In a national survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics

in 2018, 94% of teachers spend their own money to stock their classrooms with necessary supplies and resources. On average, a teacher will spend about $479, though as many as 7% spend more than $1,000, according to the report.

"So many teachers have to go to buy so much on their own, and that's where this is going to have an impact. Teachers have to contribute because times are tough and budgets are down. They want to have what they need to teach," Ryan said.

Wilson said most Cubby's stores are in smaller communities, usually those with populations around 1,200 to 1,400. Mitchell is considered one of the larger business markets for the company, though it does have stores in places like Omaha, where the program started and is centered.

But the need for supplies is not isolated to one size of community. That's why the program is coming to Mitchell and other locations outside Cubby's home base market.

"We decided that we would expand the program to offer it in the stores in our smaller markets," Wilson said.

The program has traditionally done well in its efforts, Wilson said, and early indications are that response will continue, thanks to a strong, loyal customer base and the overall generosity of Midwestern people.

"So far, so great. We have collected a lot of stuff at the stores so far, and we're getting some good exposure," Wilson said.

Ryan said customers could expect to see collection bins for the supplies at local Cubby's stores beginning Wednesday, July 20. The program will run through Aug. 7, giving organizers enough time to gather the donations and get them to the teachers and students who need them in time to kick off the new school year in the fall.

The program is a way for the company to stand firm on their commitment to community and education, Wilson said. And something as simple as gathering school supplies to be given out for free is a great way to do that.

"Any dent we can make makes me feel great. You see the stories in the news and newspapers about teachers going out and buying out of their own pocket. It's heartbreaking," Wilson said.

Cubby's Convenience Stores has 35 locations in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. The company has been operating since 1979.