PENCIL’s free teacher resource center was officially renamed the DG PENCIL Box in honor of its new Presenting Sponsor, Dollar General Literacy Foundation, on Wednesday, January 26, with a ribbon cutting at PENCIL’s new ancillary supply store in Antioch.

The PENCIL Box was established in 2006 with the help of initial funder, LP Building Solutions, as the community’s collective effort to ensure no student is hindered by the lack of supplies. Dollar General Literacy Foundation has committed an investment of $175,000 to ensure this program will grow and continue to serve MNPS teachers with essential classroom supplies. The ribbon cutting marked the official handoff from LP to Dollar General, as they joined leaders from PENCIL, Metro Council, the Board of Education, and MNPS Support Hub to celebrate the occasion with MNPS teachers.

PENCIL’s Board Chair, Norman Merrifield, pointed out that Dollar General’s investment helps PENCIL identify and eliminate inequities within our public school system, a cornerstone of MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle’s vision for MNPS.

Denine Torr, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy at Dollar General, recognized the importance of supporting teachers specifically.

“We want to thank PENCIL for having the vision for this and allowing us to be part of this expansion to the new site so that we can have the DG PENCIL Box not only downtown but here [in Antioch] as well. So, we can say [to Metro teachers]: ‘When you have needs, lean on us, come in and let us take care of you. Let us be there for you, so you can go focus on the joy of being a teacher and why you got in this business to begin with,’” Torr said. “From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of Dollar General, we are excited to have the DG PENCIL Box, to be rebranding this teacher service, and be able to make sure you have the supplies you need for your classroom and your students.”

PENCIL is excited to open its first-ever ancillary supply store at 5380 Hickory Hollow Parkway in Antioch. With the second DG PENCIL Box location, PENCIL aims to provide more convenient access, especially for teachers who live or work in the southeastern part of the city and offers the same core classroom supplies available at the main location at 7199 Cockrill Bend Blvd. in West Nashville. Through the generosity of Ben and Thomas Freeland, the Antioch store space is donated in-kind for PENCIL’s use, while Dollar General has generously provided shelving, fixtures, and key supplies to the space.

MNPS Board of Education Chair, Christiane Buggs, reinforced the importance of the DG PENCIL Box and expressed her excitement about the new location in Antioch.

“This is really exciting because I know what it’s like to pick up a second job, literally to pay for the supplies that your students are going to benefit from, that they need,” explained Buggs. “This is always what PENCIL does: they work with the community. They partner with different organizations to make sure students get what they need. Students can only get what they need when teachers have what they need…”  

Several Metro teachers attended the ribbon cutting, including Lea Bermudez, a kindergarten teacher at Paragon Mills Elementary School. Despite the distance, Lea has been shopping at the PENCIL Box for the last six years and is thrilled to finally have a store three miles away from her home. 

“I shop at the PENCIL Box for so many reasons,” Bermudez shared. “I want my students to have the materials that they need to be successful, and I’d say about half of my students – or less – bring in school supplies. The PENCIL Box allows me to send materials home for students to do homework, supply materials for after schools clubs, and help [my] fellow teammates and teachers.”

Mayor John Cooper concluded the remarks by sharing how special this milestone is to the Nashville community. He reflected that Nashville has the nation’s attention as an “it” city and that we can use this spotlight to set the standard for American cities moving forward. 

“Demonstrations like this are how we capture that moment and use it effectively,” Cooper explained. “Creating an environment where organizations like PENCIL, Dollar General, community partners, and decision makers can come together and implement change [ensures]…the whole community of Nashville benefits.”

Through the DG PENCIL Box, any MNPS teacher can shop for free once a quarter at either PENCIL location for core supplies such as pencils, crayons, glue sticks, copy paper, and composition books, as well as classroom décor, cleaning supplies, tissues, and more. The free stores would not be possible without significant community support. The DG PENCIL Box remains stocked with core supplies thanks to the generosity of local partners, the Nashville community, ongoing support from Dollar General, and national brands secured through the Kids in Need Foundation.

Those interested in ensuring MNPS teachers have the tools they need to run an effective classroom, at no cost to them, can host a supply drive, donate supplies, sponsor a high-need item, or volunteer to staff the store. Learn more:

The DG PENCIL Box will be open to Metro teachers for shopping appointments at both the West Nashville and Antioch sites here: