Birds of a feather flock together, especially when it comes to the like-minded franchise owners of Chick-fil-A in DeSoto County.

An effort to collect school supplies for DeSoto County teachers began July 28 and ended just in time for school personnel and students to have all the supplies they need to begin a new school year on the right foot.

It's an effort called "Topple the Truck," because Chick-fil-A's trademark truck is filled to overflowing with school supplies donated by Chick-fil-A.

"Chick-fil-A is leading by example," Stuart Davidson, owner of the Chick-fil-a franchise in Southaven said as he and Chick-fil-A owner Brandon Paulsen of Olive Branch were among Chick-fil-A employees who drove the brightly-colored truck to the DeSoto County School Board Central Services Office to distribute supplies.

"Since Truett Cathey opened the first Chick-fil-A in 1946, Chick-fil-A has always been giving back to the community," Davidson said.

Like Davidson, Paulsen said Chick-fil-A enjoys widespread support from the community and "gives back" every chance it gets.

"We feel so fortunate to be able to help these teachers, students and the community as a whole," Paulsen said. "Truett (Cathey) started out talking about going the second mile. We feel like we have had a major impact upon the community. We feel like the people we are directly benefiting will become the future leaders of the community tomorrow."

Chick-fil-A has donated $12,943 since 2005, helping award 26 teacher grants as part of the DeSoto County Foundation for Excellence in Education, according to Susan Fernandez with the DeSoto County Economic Development Council.

"We appreciate Chick-fil-A's support of DeSoto County Schools," DeSoto County Superintendent of Education Cory Uselton said during the "Topple the Truck" presentation. "They are such a prominent supporter of DeSoto County Schools and a prominent business in our community. The teachers' grants and the supplies gives extra support to teachers who need them in the classroom."

Chick-fil-A presented its most recent check to the Foundation for Excellence in the amount of $2,386. Teacher grants are distributed each year during a ceremony at DeSoto Hills Baptist Church on Nov. 9.

"Teachers today are required so often to buy things on their own for their classrooms," Fernandez said. "These grants are so important to the teachers and their students. As you know, budgets are tight. We are fortunate we have a great school system but any extras add costs to an already strained budget."

Total teacher grants awarded in 2016 amounted to 177 grants for a total of $77,488. Organizations like the United Way contributed more than $35,000.

Currently, the Foundation for Excellence has amassed more than $25,000 for teacher grants this year and will be transferring $11,500 from the annual Salute To Education Golf Tournament, bringing a total for the teacher grant program so far to $36,500.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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