German Village Gazette

Village Notebook

McDonald's, businesses helping Learning Center

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Playing with some of the children from the South Side Learning & Development Center (from left) are Jolene Mierzejewski, SSLDC Executive Director Roberta Bishop, board member Chuck Lynd and board President Mary Cusick. The adults joined the kids for some fun after presenting the center with a $10,000 grant.
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Those Ronald McDonald commercials always make me wish I was a kid again, headed to the Golden Arches for some McNuggets and fries.

But maybe all that child-friendly imagery at McDonald's restaurants doesn't tell the whole story that I had a chance to learn recently.

McDonald's owner/operators are ARDENT supporters of children's programs in their communities.

I had a chance recently to meet Jolene Mierzejewski, the owner-operator of our brand new McDonald's on South High Street.

Jolene sits on the grants committee for Central Ohio McDonald's Owners/Operators. She gets to steer about $90,000 a year into central Ohio programs that support childhood development.

I'm on the board of South Side Learning & Development Center.

The center is an 89-year-old quality early learning facility on Reeb Avenue near Parsons Avenue and will be the anchor tenant in the new Reeb School project that Jane Abell and Tanny Crane have been championing alongside the city of Columbus.

I don't have to explain to you the disadvantages many of the local students who attend the school face. The center has always been a beacon, offering kindergarten prep as well as support for families of the students.

The center was just awarded a nearly $10,000 grant from Central Ohio McDonald Owner/Operators, thanks to our friend Jolene and her colleagues, to put back some programming cut after state government changed early learning funding formulas in 2008.

I think you'll agree that the two programs funded by McDonald's franchisees will open the world just a bit to these disadvantaged students who live right here in our back yards.

"I worked with SSLDC years ago and always knew they were an important cornerstone for the South Side community that has been struggling financially for years. Seeing their grant application come to us meant I had a chance to reconnect to SSLDC and to fund their superb programs," Jolene told me when we met at the center.

Half the grant is to reinstate two field trips that take SSLDC's 3- and 4-year-olds to the Columbus Zoo and to Homestead Park.

For kids with limited transportation and no money for zoo entry, these are very big learning experiences.

They get to ride the bus and see another part of the city -- and that's before they get to see the animals and experience all the hands-on learning experiences at the zoo!

The other half of the grant will help the Learning Center integrate its current curriculum with that of the Head Start curriculum just added last month.

SSLDC is one of the YMCA's new partners in Head Start. The ability to bring in Head Start students and then offer the rest of the Center's programming to siblings and families is another way the Learning Center is a pivot point in the efforts to raise the South Side.

And these are tiny investments, in the scheme of things, which will make a huge difference for these kids and their families.

There's more coming this Christmas.

Donato's CEO Tom Krouse also sits on the SSLDC board, and his team is creating a video in support of the Center.

Donato's will share it with its friends, family and followers just in time for Christmas.

"SSLDC is important because of the need for early education and development to improve lives and our community, and obviously SSLDC is a key charity for Donato's because of our efforts to improve life in the South Side. I am hoping between Donato's support and our friends and family to raise $10,000," Krouse said in an email.

German Village Society Executive Director Shiloh Todorov submitted the Village Notebook column.

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